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.UV 2? 1976 

R A M 


































LUXOR 196 

























The Daughter of Amenophis IV. New Kingdom. The Pyramids 
at Gizeh. Sphinx and Pyramids at Gizeh. The Sphinx in its 

Original Condition. Frontispiece 


Limestone Statue of TL 52 

Limestone Statue of Renofer. 52 

Diorite Statue of Chefren. 53 

Village Magistrate. V Dynasty. 60 

Bronze Statue of King Phiops and His Son. 60 

Alabaster Statue of Mykerinos. 61 

King Mykerinos with two Goddesses. 66 

Our Family. Ni-Ra-Anch. (Limestone) 67 

The Elders, Nefer-Hotep and Wife. (Limestone) 78 

Limestone Statue, V Dynasty. 79 

Lifesize Statue of Renofer II. (Limestone) 79 

Rahotep and Nofret. (Limestone) 96 

Sacrificial Stone. Ill Dynasty. 97 

Wooden Statue of a Priest, Old Kingdom. 97 

A Scribe. V Dynasty. 112 

A Servant Girl. (Limestone) 112 

Door. V Dynasty. 113 

Sesostris I, Middle Kingdom. 128 

Head of Sesostris III. Middle Kingdom. 129 

Thutmosis III. New Kingdom. 144 

Amenothes, Son of Hapu. XVIII Dynasty. New Kingdom. 145 

Luxor Temple. Papyrus Pillars of Amenhotep III. 208 



Colossi of Memnon at Luxor. 209 

Karnak. Avenue of Sphinxes. 224 

Der-el-Bahri. Three Views of Queen Hatshepsut's Temple. 225 

The Sphinx in its Present Condition. 240 

Front View of the Sphinx, Present Condition. 240 

The Sphinx undergoing Restoration. 240 

Jerusalem. The Old Jewish City. 241 

The Entrance to the Omar Mosque. 256 

The Omar Mosque. 256 

The Theseum. 257 

The Parthenon. 257 
Sandaled Maiden on the frieze of the Nike Temple. Acropolis 

Museum. 304 

Stele of Aristion. National Museum. 305 

Archaic Statue. Acropolis Museum. 305 

Zeus Temple. Olympia. (Pediment) 320 

Moschophoros. Acropolis Museum. 320 

Zeus Temple. Olympia. The Labors of Hercules. (Metope) 321 

Eleusinian Relief. National Museum. 321 

The Daphni Monastery near Athens* 344 

Mosaic, Daphni. The Resurrection of Lazarus. 345 



Cairo: Mid November. 

JL HE skin stretches. Sore places heal up, and tainted swamps turn 
into flourishing gardens. The bones relax, hollows fill out, and the 
vitals, supported and relieved by the active pores, function easily. 
The activities of the skin, of which I knew nothing hitherto, have 
acquired a real meaning since they came to control the entire 
workings of my body. 

The hotel is half empty. There are one or two islands in the big 
dining-room. One is clamorously inhabited by the extensive Behn 
family from Berlin. Lost in the sea of chairs is Mr. Coolman of 
Baltimore, morose, and portentous in circumference. Nearer us is 
an old Goat from Paris with a very young dandy, perpetually 
wreathed in smiles. Then a vague pair of Englishmen over by the 
partition; they do not contribute much to our social pleasures. 
The emptiness corresponds to our inner state. Although we abandon 
ourselves to the sun's benediction and therefore have no excuse to 
feel neglected, there is something wanting. Warmth and emptiness 
are the predominant note. Behn and his companions seem to have 
transported to their new surroundings only the most trivial con- 
ventions of their habitual milieu and remain completely passive, 
unless you count as activity the relations between the Goat and the 
smiling young man, who has nothing to laugh at as night draws on. 
We warm ourselves, and still have plenty of time to light cigarettes 



and forget to look at the papers. The sense of warmth remains quite 
abstract, since no variation intensifies it or diminishes it. After three 
days you forget that it was ever cold; and you have to look for some- 
thing else to talk about and cannot find it. 

There are remarkable things here, presumably full of opportuni- 
ties for instruction and enjoyment, with whose help we might 
contrive to raise our inner temperature. I do not know what holds 
us back. Perhaps it is the sun. The sun stands between things and 
ourselves. I am not yet in Egypt merely in a climate, and I regulate 
my life by the hotel time-table. At most I fraternize with the Behns 
and the person from Baltimore. The rest of the time I sit about with 
Babuschka, seven trunks and my past, and observe how my skin 
stretches and my bones relax. 

Any one with a particle of gratitude ought of course to receive 
this gracious gift on bended knee; but there is really no question 
of receiving it. You do not take the sun; the sun takes you, as 
though you were a coolie, as mere epidermis. Yet there naturally 
survive the relics of a more personal epoch, full of ills, no doubt, 
but also more active. * , . This physiological enchantment covers 
my limbs like a suit of ready-made clothes, and I feel slightly absurd 
in it. Somewhere inside me there is still a little piece of Ice which 
will not melt for all the sunshine and makes resistance a point of 
honor. That is only natural. Let us say that for years I had to get 
along without legs; during which time I read countless books and 
led a life that, if sedentary, was at least an intelligent affair. Sud- 
denly my legs are returned to me. And now, up and doing! Gratis, 
of course, but what conditions attaching! Formerly I sat still, lived 
in a reasonable fashion, and only somebody who happened to look 
under the table noticed anything. But if somebody did notice, he 
looked at me in astonishment, as though at some phenomenon; for 
naturally I could concentrate much more easily than other people, 
as though my intelligence were shod with seven league boots. , , . 
Or let us say that I was blind, and a successful operation has re- 


stored to me the precious gift of heaven. In that case it was only 
by the merest chance that I didn't break my neck or go crazy in 
the very first moment of recovery. 

I am not exaggerating. Remember how Diirer went on about the 
sun in Venice. The sun in Venice good gracious! A tolerable 
pretense at a sun, I dare say; but I'm not surprised that it left a 
lump of ice inside him large enough to remind him how he longed 
for sunshine, even while he was actually enjoying it. He never had 
the chance of abandoning himself to the sun. 

Babuschka thinks the light is more beautiful here than it is at 
home: which is slightly illogical, even a trifle comic. Different, if 
you like; everything is different the earth, the human beings, the 
animals, the atmosphere. Whether one prefers the Egyptian cattle, 
with their expressionistic structure and their pointed heads pushed 
forward, to Holsteins, is a matter of temperament and taste and 
signifies nothing. In appearance they are completely different crea- 
tures; and though they may answer much the same purpose, their 
symbolic aspects are worlds apart. No Egyptian would ever call a 
stupid person a cow; at least I can't imagine his doing so. I can 
imagine any sort of beauty here; the only thing I can't imagine, 
my notions being what they are, is the possibility that I could ever 
freeze again after this sunshine, for that implies an intimacy which 
I cannot conceive and which I do not even find desirable. 

Naturally I am capable of making such a supposition; and like 
any rational creature I shall eventually make it and learn to reckon 
with anything under the sun. I shall grow acclimatized and finally 
succeed in making light of the miracle and talk of something else. 
The prospect is not particularly tempting, although my present 
condition betrays all the awkward symptoms of change. 

My general well-being follows suit. To some extent I exaggerate 
it, for Fiirstenberg, my doctor, thinks my kidneys are not doing 
too badly. Whenever possible I invent this detail for the sake of 


literature, otherwise my story might be even more exaggerated. But 
even with the liveliest nephritis you would feel a champion here. 

This disposition drove me in the first place into the arms of my 
friend Ibrahim, one of the Bedouin who swarm here outside every 
hotel. Ibrahim was wearing a yellowish white striped silk under- 
garment and over this a heavy cloak of the deepest ultramarine. A 
white turban was twisted round his brown head, and a white silk 
cloth was knotted about his neck. He had one eye missing; the 
remaining one glinted at you shrewdly, but kindly. Babuschka 
could not bear him, because he would take us into mosques and 
tutoyer us: a purely linguistic peculiarity which had its charms for 
me, as it reminded me of Louise, my old Swiss bonne in Paris; 
she used to do it too, and she was a treasure. I liked him, though I 
also am indifferent to the attractions of mosques. 

However, Ibrahim was also our companion on our first expedi- 
tion to the Pyramids. Babuschka's theory that we could quite well 
do the Pyramids without him, and that it would be cheaper to go by 
tram, did not carry the day. Women succeed in combining with 
their devotion to the higher pleasures an attention to detail to 
which we men are driven professionally but which we try to avoid 
when occasion offers, if only to convey the impression that we know 
how to generalize. Many women are completely indifferent to this 
impression, and quite often are actually proud of their powers of 
resisting it. Babuschka perhaps enjoyed the overwhelming spectacle 
even more than I did, and was not to be dragged away from the 
hill which afterwards we came to call our hill; yet she none the 
less had her eye on Ibrahim, who was quite well aware of her 
aversion for him. Actually there was little to complain of even 
the tiresome episode in the bazaar. I too deplored his obstinate pref- 
erence for the Arab quarter of Cairo; but it seemed hardly fair 
to harass him with our dislike of mosques, which must have been 


unintelligible to his Moslem instincts, and which in any case was 
not shared by most foreigners, 

It's quite alarming. I often wish it were a thing of the past, a 
mere memory: no longer that burning ball in the sky, but a part 
of my life and experience. For it eludes us, for all that it is per- 
petually shining upon our skins, there under our very noses. It 
eludes us, because a thousand stupid trifles are always distracting 
us; because Ibrahim turns out after all not to be the true servant of 
the sun, but a greedy dragoman; because we are restless and flighty, 
incapable of, fundamentally unequal to letting the rays penetrate 
us and melt that last fragment of northern ice, that relic of chilly 
Europeanism, that allows us only to warm our skins. One ought to 
embrace the outside world within oneself, even if it thereby ceases 
to be the outside world. An imaginary, an artificial sun, then, in- 
stead of the real one? I suppose so; for if one is susceptible to noth- 
ing but pure physiological effects, one may as well go and hang 
oneself. The most rational cure for spiritual ailments would be to 
pack off home as quickly as possible. 

Perhaps one's fancy only takes this turn if one has been blind or 
obliged to sit without legs. When one first discovers the use of one's 
new limbs there's no telling what one may not call a nine days' 

The importance of natural obstacles must not be underrated. We 
may freeze after sunning ourselves, but in spite of the cold outside 
we are capable of warming ourselves inside. This capacity is re- 
sponsible for all sorts of activities. A good deal of religion and 
civilization and culture hangs by the stove; and also the tastiest 
part of reason, it goes without saying. In point of fact Ibrahim is 
a dragoman and not a sun-worshipper at all I admit it. At all events 
an agreeable shape without any meaning. Now we're getting down 
to it, One cannot help getting used to one's surroundings in time; 
after a while we shall contrive to feel cold even here, and perhaps 
develop unheard-of powers of resistance. Maybe we shall actually 


look back with regret to our present transitional state. At present 
the most animated topic of conversation is always the great It, 
Ibrahim may regard us as mere prospects; the bazaar episode may 
take what turn it chooses: never mind the great It stands there in 
the sky, and it would be absurd to wrangle in its presence. As long 
as it shines upon us, there shall be no problems. We have also 
agreed to admit the secret hope that it may melt the last ridiculous 
particle of ice and one day dispel it with all appropriate finality. 

As long as day lasts it goes on shining. The morning has no social 
setting; it is no abstraction that you identify by the calendar, but 
that ceases to exist beyond the sound of the telephone bell and one's 
professional duties and the other incidents of one's life in Berlin. 
On the contrary, it's a highly concrete affair that you can touch and 
feel and see. I do not claim this as a particularly striking discovery; 
none the less it is the fundamental fact one cannot help mentioning. 
In this country the day is bright and the night is dark. Further- 
more, one feels less and less impelled to behave in an original man- 
ner. In this brilliant light one needs none of those ingenious sub- 
tleties that give zest to life at home. One simply wants to be normal 
and dull and to let things slide. 

But while the stunted faculties are satisfied as soon as they are 
relieved, those which are more accessible to the will arc always 
demanding to be exercised. Instead of lying quiet in the warmth 
your mind is always prodding at your consciousness. This is what 
makes it so different from Italy. Here the sun doesn't weaken you. 
In Sicily about this time of year the days can be warmer by the 
thermometer than they are here, but there you feel relaxed and want 
to lounge about. Another morning, as likely as not, it will be pour- 
ing. Really the air reminds you more of the sunny heights of 
Switzerland, even to the sharp drop in the temperature at sunset. 
But as everybody knows, at St. Moritz you are hemmed in by 
storms, and at the best of times you get the peculiarly modern effect 
of sweltering in the midst of snowdrifts. But the climate of Egypt 


is fenced about not by jagged mountains, but by an endless plain 
perhaps larger than all Europe the desert. Hence the incomparable 
purity of the air, except in that tiny corner where a million of 
Ibrahim's dirty friends make it a bit unreliable. The miracle is It, 
the great norm. Since the Egyptians took to behaving as if they 
were in control, the arrangements often leave much to be desired. 
The sun is no deceiver: it has gone so for thousands of years. The 
historian reckons here with big numbers. Anno 4241 saw the inven- 
tion of our year with 365 days. Six and twenty native dynasties 
reigned here, the learned reckon, and when the first began there 
already existed a wonderful order of things. After the last there 
was still half a millennium before our era. The Persians and then 
the Greeks and then the Romans; and then 3 over there in Pales- 
tine, a night's journey away by sleeping-car, Christ was born. All 
these ages, with all there is in them and all we should like to know 
about them, would overwhelm us, were it not for that great sim- 
plifying factor in the heavens. Cultures came and went through the 
endless ages, and then came one which we could recognize as akin 
to European culture, if it weren't so appallingly remote and Europe 
weren't so given over to evil ways. That is what we must realize. A 
wonderful problem, a perfect theme to work out, if only we were in 
a position to hack off a piece of the reality in front of us. 

It seems as though the desert air could dry up all the decay that 
we have caught from our age, as well as every restless craving for 
originality; and the sun could give us wings to soar over the epochs 
which stand before us like walls of rock. The great It, the source of 
every miracle in Egypt, shines to-day just as it shone under king 
Mcnes. None of the facts revealed by testimony, no discovery de- 
ciphered by the admirable zeal of the learned from chiselled hiero- 
glyph or wrested from yellowing papyrus is more certain than this. 
Nothing is more profoundly satisfying. All this outcome of un- 
paralleled effort emerged under the rays of the same sun. All but 
the scantiest fragments has gone to rack and ruin; and although at 


times one is sorely grieved, for never was a greater achievement 
destroyed and never was the lust to destroy blinder and more 
fanatical, yet half an hour later one smiles and interprets this wax- 
ing and waning as merely one of the many functions of the imper- 
turbable, inexhaustible norm. Certainly ancient Egypt was beautiful, 
dazzlingly beautiful, during the long, during the tiny period when 
it stood intact, if it ever really was intact; but it was beautiful, too, 
before it was complete, and beautiful in its fall, and beautiful there- 
after; and still the great It sheds its light upon winding alleys and 
filthy holes, upon domes and minarets, upon the wide streets of a 
modern city and upon crumbling tombs, upon clean and verminous 
folk of every hue, upon motors and donkeys and carriages and 
dromedaries, and wakens them all to life and beauty. Stand aside a 
little, and you fall to your knees. Last of all, they have never been 
able to make away with the Mokattam, the lirmestone height to th 
east of the city, nor the Nile, nor the desert, still less the pyramids; 
and every trace that the destroyer's hand has spared acts in one way 
or another, even in the imagination of world-weary Europeans, as a 
stimulus to a new creation. 

Do not grieve; for even in the frozen north there are reflections 
of this miracle. Let the monuments of your Rameses get carefully 
frosted over, and if a couple of sunbeams chance to fall on them at 
a lucky moment you may well see Egyptian monuments even in the 
Berlin Puppenallee. Even among the Eskimos you may feel a breath 
of this enchantment. Were it not so, no amount of revelry wouk 1 
keep a Northerner alive here. 

There were many gods in Egypt. They adored every conceivable 
beast. Babuschka maintains that this passion is a survival from an 
earlier age and reappeared only in a time of decadence, and that in 
the golden age their use of zoology was purely symbolic. She may 
very well be wrong; but ever since she held her own with Ibrahim 
in the bazaar episode, I never venture to contradict her. We can 
no longer make out where symbolism left oft and plain supersti- 


tion began. In any case the sun was always the chief god, and the 
many secondary gods, the outcome of the instinct to particularize 
and priestly dishonesty, achieved at most a slight clouding of the 
Egyptian horizon. . . . One dayit is hardly 3300 years ago 
Amenophis IV swept the whole elaborate swindle aside and allowed 
the validity of only one god, the Sun. This king stands very close 
to us, Everything we know of his acts and private life shows him in 
a sympathetic light. He was interested only in the things of the 
spirit and hated militarism. Naturally he fell foul of the rest. In 
later days he was called the Heretic King; hardly was he dead be- 
fore they cleared away all that he had done, and the wicked priests 
did their utmost to bring his memory to naught. He had an intelli- 
gent face, and the back of his head was quite well developed. I 
daresay he was a shockingly degenerate fellow. 


EVERY afternoon we set forth. Number Fourteen goes every half 
hour from the Ataba. Babuschka sulks as long as we stay inside the 
city; and some accident is sure to happen as well Soon after the 
Nile bridge the Triangles come into view for the first time. Often 
they mask each other on the journey so that only one is visible. 
Naturally they look their best when you see them in a row, espe- 
cially when those at Abusir, and even at Sakkara, are included in 
the background. From Heluan you can see the whole street of 
pyramids, for which reason Babuschka would prefer to get out 
there. If Heluan were not rendered unsafe by Herr Behn and his 
satellites we should have settled there ourselves. At Heluan there 
is absolutely nothing to see except pyramids and Behns, The former 
in the distance, the latter close at hand, fretting at every delay. It 
was the only excursion that we had undertaken so far* This exclu- 
sive preoccupation with the pyramids is directly responsible for the 
shrinkage of our outlook and all our instincts. We wake up with 
them and go to sleep with them. We have been here four or five 
weeks and haven't set foot in a museum, not even the Egyptian* 
But for Ibrahim we shouldn't have seen a single mosque. My father 
knew every mountain in Switzerland. We know every pyramid; 
nobody can beat us there. They are our specialty. Only from the 
outside, of course. We deliberately keep historical considerations at 



arm's length, and if some well-meaning person starts telling us 
something about them, Babuschka begins to get drowsy. She be- 
haves as if she had been brought up with the things. 

On the way there in tram Number Fourteen I regularly reflect 
upon the many reasonable projects which remain unfulfilled to this 
day, upon the way the time is slipping by, upon the absurd ease with 
which our habitual diversions pursue courses legitimate enough in 
their way, but quite uncontrolled, I am inclined to think that we 
are really unsophisticated, a prey to picture-postcard romanticism. 

"We might just as well get out and have a look at the museum," 
Babuschka remarked yesterday in a cheerful way. She was in brown. 
It was three o'clock, and we were almost at Gizeh. After a while 
she asked whether I considered the pyramids works of art. 

"No/' I said, quite firmly. But she was not to be put oil. 

"But Raphael and that sort of thing . . , that's art, isn't it?" 

I looked at the row of loaded camels in the country road, each 
with an enormous sagging bundle of rushes and sugarcane on its 
back, each tossing its head in the air. Presumably she meant what 
she said. 

We were crossing the floods. The water has gone down per- 
ceptibly since we have been here; and there is corn growing where 
there was nothing but mud a fortnight ago. Cheops stands up in 
the background. As usual I greeted him with a nod, and Babuschka, 
taking it for an overture, turned towards me. The shadowed triangle 
cut clean across the horizon. 

"Mathematical twaddle!" I exclaimed in a fury. 

Babuschka protested mutely that it wasn't her fault. 

Now the lighter side came to the fo?re; and the whole tone 
changed, though the outlines kept their sharpness. In the inade- 
quacy of words, said I, let us call it beautiful: beautiful in the sense 
that a stone is beautiful, or a mountain, or what not. 

"No!" said Babuschka. 

"Why not, pray?" 



She shrugged her shoulders idly, at a loss for a tangible formula. 
Whenever she wears brown, we always fall out. Nature, she main- 
tained, was responsible for nothing so large and artificial 

"Large and artificial! What a delicious combination!" 

She was right, though. In the impalpable inorganic sphere there 
is something attractive about the artificial, that which is made and 
not grown, that which is totally opposed to nature. It is exclusively 
a product of human consciousness. It would be nothing, though, 
without the sun: that one must admit. Without the sun it would 
never acquire a function, A more or less useful thing, therefore, 
an apparatus for catching light and shadow, very intelligently con- 
trived, no doubt, but far too dependent upon its context to count 
for much as a work of art. This concept one must leave out of 
account; you may call it a compromise of great significance and 
hallowed by time, but still a compromise. 

"Something like a machine?" she queried, 

"Precisely. A reflector, let's say. That's it, a reflector, Excellent 

Naturally the Egyptians were not unconscious of the light playing 
on their frames, and they spent their time in it just as we do. Every 
one manages as best he can. Perhaps it's a good thing for the 
Europeans to have less sun. 

Babuschka would not give in. She simply found the pyramids 
large, and that was all there was to it. Because they were large, 
they were expressive. Because they were expressive, they were art, 
and needless to say the greatest of all time. Babuschka did not real- 
ize that any volume on that scale and of so simple a shape must 
necessarily be effective. If we estimated creative worth by material 
size we should be on our knees before the Eiffel Tower, and every 
New York skyscraper would surpass the Parthenon. With rule 
and compass and the necessary outlay, such as they could then 
afford, we could put up pyramids six times as large, and imagine a 
symbolism to correspond. 


Big things do not bestir themselves. No upheaval can displace so 
much as a stone. What is their appeal, then? Yes indeed, what is 
their appeal? Why do you set out every single day that God brings 
to light? Mere habit? And if it is a question o habit, why is there a 
glint in your eye every time the great gleaming flanks reappear? 
What drags you up to the top of the pyramid ? Mere pleasure at the 
height? They are not really so big compared with your anticipa- 
tion of them, and yet they get bigger every time. In the end one 
would come to prefer them small, to have marked them and learned 
them and inwardly digested them: these mechanical contrivances, 
put together by rule and not created. They wander forlornly in 
space, like discreetly masked sun-gods. 

When you get out, ten Ibrahims fall upon you and offer you 
their donkeys and camels and their silly faces. If they think they're 
up against an Englishman the donkey is called Whisky Soda. 
Babuschka can have a camel called Bismarck. Always the same 
story. They are always a bit behind the times. When you drive away 
a too assiduous applicant with your stick, he. replies in German, 
"Eile mit Weile" (More haste, less speed). That's all he knows. 
But enough of these disgusting anecdotes; one can't blame the 
pyramids for what need never have been mentioned at all. 

Slowly we climb the dusty path up to the plateau. There is noth- 
ing more childish than the desire to take a close look at what was 
meant to be seen from afar. Their cubic quality, which is their 
only attraction, is inevitably lost, and they turn into mere heaps of 
stones. Their imposing feature is now their brutal size. A mob of 
brainless slaves toiled at them for generations: a frightful thought. 
Once again there are vermin swarming in the cracks. The Bedouin 
take from four to six minutes scrambling up; one takes bets on it, 
sets several Ibrahims loose on the Cheops, and times them. Tour- 
ists with limbs take longer. One Ibrahim pushes him behind, an- 
other pulls in front. Below stands the anxious and greedy wife with 
pointed kodak. 


From our hill you can see the mingling of the green fertile land 
and the yellow desert as far as the eye can reach. Your thoughts 
skip over the shimmering pools, leap over the vegetation, glide up 
the fortress-like mountains of white limestone, and your soul takes 
off into the familiar blue. A body is left behind to enjoy the sun- 
shine in bestial content. 

One can't keep it up for long. One feels something watching from 
behind. Six thousand years are looking over your shoulder. Let 
them look! The sand is older still, and even at Smithville there 
are antediluvian pictures. After endless ages of bestial existence 
form appears. Fear raised its head above the trembling creation, 
and turned to awe; invented God, who destroyed willfulness. 
Hunger seized upon their guts and became spiritual; and the long- 
ing for knowledge leapt across the ages and made off from to-day 
and to-morrow into eternity* Form was the miracle. It divided fact 
from mirage, men from apes; made a vessel for the impalpable, 
wrested the unity of the symbol from the complexities of nature. 

Form is mightier than nature. What would the desert be without 
the pyramids ? The desert plays with us and lets us go, turns us into 
dancing sunbeams. The pyramids rise like lighthouses over the 
sea of sand; here is the harbor. 

Only when seen from near at hand do they produce the right 
impression: from here, where they are under our very noses. The 
signs of their mechanical construction, which is neither more nor 
less than just plain cookery, disappear into the cracks; and the 
impression to-day surpasses even that of the first day, since the shock 
of surprise has subsided and quietly taken its place among our stock 
of sensations. 

At first I tried uneasily to come to an understanding with the 
material of the pyramids, and imagined that the construction of 
the surfaces out of hewn blocks a yard high, which now He naked 
since the smooth covering slabs have been stripped away, contri- 
buted something to the effect. I took the pyramids for a pointillist 


picture and the blocks for the dabs of color. Every one must manage 
as best he can, and it is not the first time that form has been im- 
proved by mutilation. But this torso-esthetic leads you nowhere. 
Damage can only pare away superfluous detail, and what super- 
fluity can there be in a mathematical form? That is where one 
expects precision, and the preciser it is the better. Our picturesque 
leading-strings were as unknown to the Egyptians as the gramo- 
phone. The smooth impersonal envelope excluded idle naturalism, 
and set strict limits to the sentimental enjoyment of the ever-chang- 
ing play of light on the reflecting surfaces. In point of fact our eyes 
can easily supply the even ashlar surfaces, and in spite of the absence 
of the actual materials we can imagine their effect. The effect in- 
tended by the builders of the pyramids began with this immacu- 
lately smooth surface. The splendor of the plain triangle must have 
been amazing and sufficient unto itself; must have repudiated all 
sentimental poetizing, and put a bridle upon fantasy. Not that I 
consider this renunciation of symbolism a positive gain. Forms with 
this double faculty of overwhelming the spirit at close range without 
deceiving it from afar have never been seen before or since. Every 
figure borrowed from nature gets deformed and comic at a certain 
distance, even with luck vanishes altogether. Therefore let every 
other monument vield the palm to this geometry of rule and com- 
pass and gigantic expenditure of strength and material! 

Babuschka took out her camera. 

"Of course!" she said. 

"Cubism, after all! That's why we come to Egypt!" 

She fiddled about a bit, and then snapped. 

The young, especially when of the female sex, pay no attention 
to consequences. There is the impression; one pulls the trigger, 
and all one's earlier experiences take a back seat. I may remark in 
passing that here one finds on a grand scale the same process which 
on a small scale has conditioned the latest developments of Euro- 


pean art. The builders of the pyramids were the precursors of 

Babuschka refused to allow any other geometrical form the 
same effect. Pure luck, one has to call it. But supposing I happen 
to prefer a cube instead of a pyramid? Nothing else could have 
lasted so long. 

"Out of three or four geometrical forms, then, they have chosen 
the most rational" 

"The most beautiful!" she insisted. 

"Very well, the most beautiful of the three or four forms, if you 
can call them forms. It's all the same to me." 

"How did they come to make their choice? Why mathematics 
at all? They might just as well have made a soft heap." 

"I suppose they had tents in the desert, and the pyramids thus 
represent desert tents. Or else in their ambitious way they imagined 
they could make mountains." 

That notion of mountains is commonplace, but it seems to take 
her fancy. Otherwise I try to overwhelm her with Egyptian dog- 
mas, a dark business, I always take a pleasure in making people feel 
small The mere love of contradiction, I suppose; or because she is 
wearing brown; or, simply because I agree with her in point of 
fact, but find agreement tiresome, I expect that's the true explana- 
tion. At all events, I say, let us grant that it was only a beginning, 
appropriate enough five thousand years ago; and that if it had gone 
on in the same way, the history of mankind would have looked 
pretty grim. 

She pretends to be deaf, and fidgets with the box* Her clothes are 
too absurd. One should always wear white in the desert. 

It could not have begun like this; the slightest glance tells you 
that. Of course they must have started with soft earth, and 
then looked about for bricks, and then invented the stepped pyra- 
mid; and not till then can the Cheops have occurred. That was the 
very way Snofru built his two pyramids; the older one is stepped. 

FORM 27 

The development from a heap to a pyramid is a history in itself. 
The people who built it tired of living underground and cowering 
away from the sun, and dared to stand upright. To drive the point 
into the ether, to lead up to it by four equal slopes from a square 
base: that was an amazing achievement, if you like. 

Babuschka turned fiery red, and breathless. 

"It wasn't a tent at all! There was somebody inside!" 

"I never said there wasn't. And anyhow that isn't incompatible 
with the tent notion." 

"A king!" 


"A great king!" 

"Why, of course. I thought you didn't care for kings," 

"That's how they buried their kings. . . ." 

She was standing against the sun. Her skin gleamed. Cheops, 
too, was edged with gold. The kings themselves saw to that. Their 
first thought on coming to the throne was for their burial-place, 
and the whole land had nothing else to think or care about. Babu- 
schka thinks that a great idea, and perhaps she is right. There 
can be a state religion which is the complete expression of the ruler's 
self-assertion. Apotheosis was consummated in the pyramid. There 
was some one inside. Kings are gods or nothing. This at any rate 
is something to begin with. 

If only one could discover the meaning: the link between the 
understanding of yesterday, which anticipated nothing, and the un- 
derstanding of to-day, which takes snapshots indiscriminately. Prob- 
ably there is nothing elementary about this form; probably it marks 
the climax of a culture, the apex of an immense pyramid. It must 
be so, beyond all doubt; it must be subject to proof, like twice two, 
and I refuse to accept less. One can't be satisfied by guesswork and 
feelings; one must be certain when one thinks about form in gen- 
eral, not merely about this particular form. These people knew 
the answer; and their choice lay not among three or four akerna- 


tives, but among the infinite means at their disposal They had 
walked for thousands of years, taken innumerable wrong turnings, 
and everything primitive lay far behind. Naturally they did not 
choose this form consciously. Who would? They discovered the 
pyramid in a flash as their concept of value the value of the king, 
the value of the people, value in general attained its highest point. 
These men must have had a divine sense of proportion in every- 
thing. While the faces of other peoples were distorted with rage and 
fear, theirs smiled. Their habit of life must have been exemplary. 

It is feeble to sympathize with the hundred thousand slaves. As 
though their work on the pyramids were less worthy of human dig- 
nity than the modern free man with his obsession for a drill and its 
thirty-and-threefold increase of capacity per minute! In no Versailles 
is our pleasure in contemplating the facade diminished by a glimpse 
at the spiritual state of its builders. Not even at Versailles! Probably 
the so-called slaves struggled to get at the pyramid and went singing 
to their work. Each carried his stone to the sanctuary, and the honor 
of being purveyor in ordinary to the god lightened his burden. 
What the fool to-day calls slavery was for them a happy comrade- 
ship. There is no difference between them and the Gothic masons, 
No subjective difference, hardly any objective, either. 

Is that so, or am I romancing? I wish one knew something about 
those who are past and gone; one's conjectures are always running 
up against obstacles. When Eabuschka pretends there is nothing 
important except the pyramids, she is the mouthpiece of that ac- 
cursed cubism: the reaction against a complex Europe (which she 
has never known) towards a joy in the primitive, in the clean new 
page. She is young, and all is well But I start at the other end. Is 
that what it leads me to? Do the pyramids really attract me, or 
are they a mere temporary expedient coming at the psychological 
moment when our art is exhausted by the hairsplitting contests of 
the sated spectators? Am I a snob, a senseless degenerate glutton, 

FORM 29 

or did they really reach a climax here long before the beginning of 
European ascendancy? 

This one must admit in a metaphorical sense, along with so much 
else besides, for one cannot demonstrate a pyramid by means of a 
pyramid. And to the realm of metaphor we must also assign the 
exclusion of a history which does not admit of ocular demonstration. 

Things looked different once. In front of the pyramids lay gate- 
ways, and funerary temples now mostly destroyed or still buried in 
the sand. We have seen Borchardt's reconstruction. Thus, or ap- 
proximately thus, it may once have been. The pyramid was intro- 
duced to the eye by means of subsidiary buildings, which gave it 
a soothing effect. Now nothing introduces it. Even in the old days, 
however, the complex did not weaken the effect of the pyramid, 
but rather corroborated it. The buildings in front consist of straight 
avenues, right angles, cubes, massive and strictly geometrical; in 
any case they flank one side only, and that the side where the 
ground slopes away, so that they are cut off when viewed from a 
distance. On the other sides the pyramid stood free, and towered so 
immeasurably above the complex that the buildings in the fore- 
ground became quite subsidiary. From a certain distance the impres- 
sion must have been practically the same as it is to-day. 

The foolish question occurs to me: why did nobody paint the 
pyramids? Perhaps few painters were up to the task. No age but 
ours possesses or rather possessed the necessary means of repre- 
sentation. How ludicrous to think that we possessed it once, and it 
has now slipped by. The fertile soil between the two deserts would 
have been the very thing for several Frenchman of a past genera- 
tion, and they would not have disdained to exchange even the Seine 
for the Nile. There was one who even knew the pyramids, actually 
the pyramids, but only one: Cezanne, the cubist, would have gone 
mad over these mathematics, and he did catch a breath of this solid 
mystery when he brooded on these matters, long ago. But it never 
really came his way. Such people don't travel; there's no reason why 

3 o EGYPT 

they should. They sit at home at Aix, year in and year out, con- 
tentedly enough, and build their own pyramids. The people who 
come here are the Mr. Coolmans and the learned grave-diggers, 
Flaubert was here, and journeyed up the Nile, and wrote wonderful 
letters about the habits of the natives and about his own boredom. 
Not a word about ancient Egypt. Georg Ebers was here, and wrote 
novels. One would like to find co-jurors, to encourage one to ad- 

We tramp through the sand round the Sphinx. The hindquarters 
are conspicuously wasted: a real war-lion. The atmosphere has 
worn to a skeleton the rock out of which the colossus is carved. 
Cubism triumphs. The purely structural artistic form, fashioned 
out of hewn stone dragged to the spot, lasts better than the repro- 
duction of nature in organic material. The form of the forequarters, 
too, is in a poor way nowadays. The face wears a wooden muzzle 
while they are dusting it. The neck won't hold out much longer. 
On the ground below hundreds of natives swarm round with little 
baskets of sand on their heads, singing and laughing; they goose- 
step to the dump-carts on the narrow-gauge track, empty their bas- 
kets anywhere, and go back to the sand singing. They have carried 
away multitudes of basketsful, and they are on the point of disen- 
gaging the Sphinx once more; till recently it was buried up to its 
neck in the desert. It has taken the best part of forty years this 
time; the first time it was ordered by Thuthmosis IV, three and a 
half thousand years ago, as the result of a dream he had as a prince, 
which promised him the throne as a reward. Once again it will 
all come to nothing unless they build high walls round the colossus 
and bury it alive. That is how it looks now. The whole body is now 
free in front. We climbed up on to the jutting lion's paws aad sat 
with the Sphinx in a hole. To get a distant view we mounted the 
gateway near by, and saw heaven knows how far. 

The Mamelukes used the face as a target for their cannon, and 
did no end of damage. The lion's mane is torn away; the nose and 


eyes are holes, and you need all your imagination to catch the re- 
semblance to Chefren. But there the Sphinx reposes, a more cor- 
poreal being than any of the noisy active creatures, body and face 
in one, who clamber all over it. Soon you notice nothing else, and 
the tumult is stilled by the soothing gaze of the watcher who lies 
there alone. There is astonishing power in that gaze. The colossus 
has nothing to do but gaze. That is why he was put there, an im- 
mense body with equal paws stretched out in front. As a matter of 
fact, one need not look at them; they are almost too much. The 
built-up stones, themselves probably a restoration of the remote 
past, make the limbs look slightly inorganic. The bust is enough. 
It spreads out wide enough to support the enormous volume of 
the head. 

The pyramids strain your eyes. The significance which their 
surfaces fail to yield is concentrated in all its cumulative force upon 
the human face; it fills every gap in the pitted stone, smoothes the 
corroded surface, restores what has rotted away, and supplies in a 
moment even the lines that are barely hinted at. One accepts the 
oval face unquestioningly. Perhaps a rock which mere chance had 
given the form of a Sphinx would become a god of its own accord. 
A couple of hundred paces away there is a rock which remains un- 
touched, the counterpart, perhaps, of that which Chefren had 
carved into the Sphinx. It is full of fantastic faces. But the mighty 
form soon drives such fancies back to the regions of romance. The 
Sphinx was fashioned as cleanly as the pyramids. 

They used nature, the organic rock, and the forms of nature 
which they had seen, like a face, a royal lion-wig, or the prostrate 
body of a beast. What they made of them unsettles one like a per- 
sonal gesture. In those dark ages nature was a servant, nothing 
more. Only the blood royal could treat her thus, and men of daz- 
zling courage, who knew what to expect of her. Here alone, and 
nowhere else, could the Sphinx lie, placed thus before the pyramid, 
not too far and not too near, exactly at this height, where the more 


animated form of the great triangle could not get in the way and 
served to set off the figure in relief. The site of the pyramids had 
been chosen in such a way that one must give the builders credit 
for having corrected in advance the effect of foreshortening from 
that point of view. It seems to depend upon the diagonal system of 
the pyramids and the lie of the land. In the Sphinx they renounced 
mathematics entirely. It was hard to solve the problem of how to 
subordinate a monument of so decided a form. The pyramids stood, 
as stand they must, upon the plateau at the edge of the desert, on 
the sun's parade-ground. They immediately created a situation; but 
this contradicted all forms derived from organic life, could endure 
nothing but geometry. Now, man, invent something else! Create 
a new form! Bring forth a new fruit from thy loins! Set up a 
cyclops, a giant Venus, a lion, something like a couchant lionl If 
you look through the list of images of lions, everything European 
is ruled out at once. Our bloodthirstiest beast would have turned 
into a kitten. It is past imagining what Michelangelo would have 
made of the rock. Our geniuses need a good closed studio in order 
to let themselves go. Out of doors they dissipate their energy. Only 
in a box do they turn on their full strength, though at a pinch they 
can furnish a square between houses. 

The influence of the climate, one says. The contemplation of the 
desert widens the outlook. It sounds plausible, but I cannot dis- 
cover why the widening of the vision leads one straight to the 
Sphinx, At a pinch one can arrive at an understanding with the 
pyramids, whose geometry there is no gainsaying* The system suited 
a rigid autocracy, and a satisfactory scheme was immediately forth- 
coming. Here we have the cold realism of an intellectual construc- 
tion: the pyramid with countless stones and one point. There we 
have a free organism, life and movement, an appeal to the Muses, 
Europe. Would that they were buried in the pyramids! 

But when one looks further and encounters the Sphinx, the 
argument falls to the ground. They could do both, then; and in the 


same breath, moreover. The simultaneousness is the most puzzling 
part of the business. If only a couple of thousand years had inter- 
vened! But no, the same Chefren who raised the middle pyramid 
built the Sphinx. We know this not only from the investigations of 
the learned, but actually from the evidence of our own senses. Our 
desert-widened outlook cannot help noticing that the form of the 
organic being in no wise contradicts the geometrical figure, but 
rather proceeds from it. The two steep wings of the tattered lion- 
wig run parallel to the right and left slopes of the pyramid, and if 
you prolong them they intersect over the middle of the head. The 
tapering shoulders echo the same shape and the prostrate body fills 
the whole base of the triangle. The Sphinx is the offspring of the 

But presumably the pyramid contained a great deal besides this. 
How did they arrive at this organism? Why do we never for a mo- 
ment notice the arbitrary caprice of putting a human head on a 
lion's body? And that too when in our own box-art we deprecate 
the slightest fantasy a la Bocklin and even in Greek art we put up 
with such compilations only under protest. In spite of a familiarity 
based on its frequent occurrence in classical poetry, the appearance 
of a centaur in relief remains a trifle uncomfortable; and nobody has 
ever tried to take the chimaera seriously. Why do we never feel in- 
clined to discuss the organism of the Sphinx? We are never given 
an opportunity of regarding the colossus as merely decorative, or of 
endowing it with an obscure mysticism. Its function is to express 
imperious might. It always exercises the positive function of 
watcher, and its posture makes us feel subservient. We regard this 
monument just as we regard one of our native symbols of manly 
worth that has received the devotion of a great age. The same 
feeling that inspires us before the rider of Bamberg enforces our 
devotion here. It is merely stronger. One must take into account 
the dimensions of the desert in measuring the difference. 

Till this moment I have armed myself against superlatives and 


fought for Europe like a brave tin-soldier. But the old box is totter- 
ing; the Sphinx answers more than one can ask it. Isn't this already 
a sufficient ocular demonstration? 

Babuschka maintains that we really ought to go to the museum. 
All sorts of things might be cleared up in that way, I don't agree; 
I am here for the sake of my kidneys, not to encumber myself with 
new histories. 

Without a doubt our monuments lose by contrast with these; they 
come to lack consistency. It's a question of site. We have no desert 
to widen our outlook* Taine would give us all sorts of information 
of a geographical nature, and then somebody else would draw the 
opposite conclusions from the same arguments. The desert is a big 
concern. If it really prevents a comparison between the Sphinx and 
Michelangelo, Egypt as well is beyond discussion. Till yesterday I 
maintained it stoutly, and in time to come I shall maintain it again. 
One cannot maintain it often enough, but it won't do. There are 
dozens of reasons, of course, why Michelangelo made the Moses 
and the Egyptians made the Sphinx; and the desert is one of them. 
That means as little to us as the functions of our skin, which re- 
lieves our kidneys without preventing us from indulging in devil- 
ment or doing heroic deeds. If Egypt were really out of the picture, 
we should mistake the Sphinx for an ethnographic monstrosity, 
and it would never occur to us to consider it as the formal expres- 
sion of a complete value, a value which corresponds exactly to the 
increase in our stock of ideas, filling a vessel which had been 
fashioned before ever Egypt existed, and which had remained 
empty. There it is, the emptiness we bring with us, the sudden 
assuaging of our secret dissatisfaction and desires* It is as though we 
always felt a presentiment of every sensation, however new, and 
yet were ignorant of how to find it* 

The sun sets. We climb our hill behind the gate of Chefren. On 
the right the sun tinges the untouched rock that might have been 
turned into a Sphinx. In the plain the water gleams on the flooded 
tilth. The desert widens our outlook. Yonder, on the other side of 


the Nile, the long spine of the Mokattam catches the light. The 
Mokattam is the mountain from which they brought the limestone 
for the pyramids. 

"The pink house!" Babuschka exclaims. 

In the Bedouin village on the outskirts of the plateau of the 
pyramids there is a cottage painted pink. She might just as well 
have called my attention to a pretty necktie. The desert does not 
seem to have widened her outlook especially. 

"Do look," Babuschka urges me, "over there, just between the 
two brown ones, to the left of the three palms." 

"Lovely," I say without moving. But she won't leave me alone. 
Everybody wants to patent his own effects. And as a matter of fact 
the little touch of pink is perfectly charming. 

We pass the gate of Chefren and look down. Enormous oblong 
granite blocks belonging to gigantic inarticulate pillars. No capital, 
no ornament, not the slightest curvature; only the material, grave 
and positive. They must once have been polished like a safe in a 
bank. In the passages in front of the pillars stood lifesize stone fig- 
ures of Chefren which, I am told, are now in the museum. 

Babuschka called to me: "Do look at the Mokattam! It's dis- 
appearing!" The Mokattam provided the limestone for the pyr- 
amids. Last Sunday we were up there with old Rennebaum. Nearly 
two and a half million blocks of stone were used for the Cheops, 
each weighing many tons. A hundred thousand workmen were 
busy with one single pyramid for twenty years. I cannot take my 
eyes off it. Incidentally it is worth noticing how much the mosaic 
of cubic blocks, and the play of ochre tones turning from clay to 
gold against the blue ground, add to the effect of a pyramid. 
Enormous tracts of furrowed yellow climb up into heaven. 

"Ah, you Mokattam! . . ." 

The crest towers above. The stone has turned to glittering glass. 
A whole town with walls of glass, with glass palaces and glass 
domes. The rainbow glitters in countless windows. Crystals dance 
in the air. You strain your ears to catch the tinkling sound. 


WE have left Mr. Coolman and the Behn family, and have 
installed ourselves on Borchardt's advice among the Catholic sisters 
near the Bab el Luk station. The sisters keep a German school and 
hospice here; for which reason it is the chosen port of call for 
learned Germans. You enter by a pleasant court, with trees and an 
arbor, and knock at the old lodge which was once a harem. We live 
in the tower of the new schoolhouse, and have the use of a loggia 
and two big light rooms whose furniture we have supplemented 
with our luggage. In the bedroom Babuschka has turned one big 
trunk and two little ones and a hatbox into a washstand shaped 
like a stepped pyramid; it tumbles down from time to time, as 
Babuschka cannot be induced to follow the example of the Egyp- 
tians and put the big cube at the bottom* From morn till night 
the sisters are busy with the schoolchildren and their guests; it is 
divinely comfortable. The only person on our floor is the Syrian 
priest; black eyes, curly black hair, long black gown. He dines by 
himself, and seems to be entirely given up to prayer and spiritual 
exercises. At six o'clock in the morning he reads mass to the Sisters 
of St. Carlo Borromeo. We treat him with shy respect 

We sit down to meals in the old lodge, a dozen Germans all told, 
and an American from Toledo, Ohioa quiet person* He is on a 
world-tour and is going on to India next. He attends closely to our 



conversations without understanding a word we say. As I was 
arguing just now with the blond doctor about Schiller and Goethe 
a very deep conversation it was, according to Dohn he inquired 
whether the works of these two poets were given in dramatic form 
also in Germany. In America they are only given in the theater, 
which strikes him as a hazardous proceeding. One cannot trust 
one's countrymen in such matters. He has very kindly invited Dohn 
and ourselves, and indeed most of the others as well, to go and see 
him in Ohio. 

Beside the American sit the married couple from Krostewitz, 
near Leipzig. The husband has made over his possessions in advance 
to the town of Leipzig, and buys a baby hippo every day. He is a 
collector. His wife finds Egypt dirty and doesn't feel happy here. 
There is something Jewish in the Egyptian atmosphere, she main- 
tains, something fundamentally Jewish, and that she can't abide. 
Babuschka boils over inside. Joshua Dohn presides at the head of 
the table. On his left is Dettenberg, the political economist from 
Altenessen, who has lived here a long while and who is amiability 
personified. He has promised to explain to me how matters stand 
with the German Union here, although he has really undertaken 
not to talk about such things any more. Incidentally, a German 
Club, in addition to the German Union, had recently been founded. 
There are two hundred Germans in Cairo, including the waiters. 
Next the Westphalian at the head of the table sits a Catholic parish- 
priest who has been driven out of Upper Silesia, and has devoted 
himself to missionary work in Egypt; he is a pleasant man with 
webbed hands. Then comes the quiet Swabian, the Orientalist. He 
talks quite naturally in the Stuttgart dialect, and is studying ancient 
Arabic. He is going to take us on Sunday to the Mokattam. I have 
never come across such a collection of pleasant people. Apart from 
Krostewitz, the tone reminds one of the Germans in Rome a hun- 
dred years ago. 

The doyen of the assembly is Joshua Dohn, a white-bearded man 

3 8 EGYPT 

from the Baltic provinces, a poet and a philosopher. He is recon- 
structing the mysteries of ancient Egypt and is a master of the 
philosophy of numbers. The whole cosmos is bound up in the num- 
erical relations of the pyramids. By a simple multiplication of the 
diameter of the Cheops you arrive at the radius of the earth, and 
the weight of the pyramid is an exact fraction of that of the earth. 
According to Doha, the Egyptians have expressed their philosophy 
in numbers, and the fundamental laws of their manners and cus- 
toms are based upon simple addition and subtraction. By means of 
a somewhat longer calculation you get from Chefren to the world 
war. Gypsies, it seems, learned the symbols of Egypt from old play- 
ing-cards. The blond doctor, my neighbor, who is studying Egyp- 
tian history, is inclined to be sceptical about these notions, I agree, 
and he knows that I agree, but we don't protest and avoid catching 
each other's eye at such moments, when we share a guilty feeling 
together. Occasionally a cloud flits across Dohn's noble brow* We 
must attend. Dohn warns us against Nile- water; we mustn't touch 
salad, but at this point we refuse to be put upon. He knows the 
whole history of Rasputin, the Russian mystic and libertine. The 
conversation is always very stimulating, and we are glad to have 
escaped from the hotel. From our roof we can see the pyramids and 
the Mokattam. We take sun-baths. It's only a fortnight to Christ- 

MOSQUES. At breakfast at Herr von K/s house, when the subject 
of the mosques arose, the bomb burst. The subject Is the favorite 
one here, for its grateful shade envelops all such questions as to 
whether England or France could damage or endanger our present 
parlous condition. The words flow of their own accord, and one 
goes home contented. The tone of the conversation rises immediately 
after the sole, which is served here baked in puff-paste. Rohricht, 
the greatest authority on Islamic art, who is excavating the tombs 
of the Khalifs this winter, sang the praises of the mosques in terms 


of the highest enthusiasm. He had been invited to say his piece, and 
only a tactless fool would ever have dared to contradict him. Babu- 
schka is to blame. To all appearances she was in the company of 
important persons for the first time in her life, looked quite charm- 
ing into the bargain, and never opened her mouth once for the first 
half hour. Suddenly she was inspired. She threw out some remark 
that Rohricht picked up, and caught me a whack on the nose: it 
wasn't exactly rude merely her usual excess of tolerance: "I wish 
you joy of them!" What annoyed me was the presence of three 
professional Egyptologists, one French and the other two English, 
who were prepared to conceal their calling to the last gasp. Oh, 
there was nothing like mosques . . . charming indeed . . . the 
pyramids were mere observation-posts compared to the mosque of 
Mohammed Ali. 

I took some time to produce my objections in a concise form, for 
there was no denying the atmospheric capacities of mosques, nor 
the picturesqueness of their silhouettes either. I had also to thank 
the Syrian priest for a glimpse at the beautiful manuscripts of the 
Koran in the library. It was a pity to drag in the Syrian priest, as 
it involved admitting that without the kind offices of this excellent 
person we should have missed seeing these objects of the first im- 
portance. I praised Arabic calligraphy enthusiastically: its fantastic 
ornament, its abundant incident. If it were possible to reckon as art 
a purely ornamental manifestation whose appeal to our way of 
thinking must needs be somewhat limited, one might make bold to 
maintain, etc. In short, I did everything that a man could do, and 
blurted out, in what I hoped was an aside, my regrets that these 
charms had not been confined to Arabic writing. 

Rohricht reacted like a father whose daughter had just been 
publicly deflowered, but managed somehow to preserve his mild 

"My dear friend," he lisped, "you are forgetting Islamic archi- 
tecture!" No: I hadn't forgotten it. I only wish I had. It was really 


more than I could bear to see those three professional Egyptologists 
sitting there, filling their bellies. Out I came again with the atmos- 
phere and the picturesqueness and all the other tomfooleries. If you 
succeeded in overlooking the handling of the material, which never 
caught the character of the stone, there was still the intolerable 
topheaviness. The turrets and the minarets! And look at the way 
they placed the windows! Not the faintest idea of the functions of 
a column. Everything structural turned to ornament. Far be it from 
me to hurt any one's feelings. Owing to favorable influences several 
of the Cairo mosques had contrived to acquire a modicum of struc- 
tural stability. 

Rohricht's tall figure bent in anger* 

"And what, pray, do you refer to as a modicum?" 

He had the whole company behind him, of course. I prostituted 
myself with a glance in the direction of the Egyptologists; I might 
just as well have turned to the blacks. 

"I was comparing it with European architecture," I replied, with 
the same painful amiability, "since, after all, we are Europeans." 

Rohricht's dromedary-lips drooped, and let loose a history of 
architectural development, from which we inferred that partly by 
direct and partly by indirect means Europe was head over ears in 
debt to the genius of Islam. Though he admired the spontaneity of 
my reactions, he must insist that we were dealing with facts which 
mere sensibility was unable sufficiently to appreciate. 

I still held my own to some extent. 

"We must not get entangled in details," I remarked icily. "The 
fundamental principles of European architecture were established 
long before Islam made its appearance. That we know for a fact. 
But that is of little consequence here, where we have examples of 
a native architecture of extreme antiquity under our very noses," 
Here again I couldn't refrain from glancing in the direction of the 
Egyptologists over my shoulder. One of the Englishmen was just 
swallowing a mouthful of salad. 


"The pyramids, I suppose you mean?" Rohricht smiled. 

At this juncture a blonde German woman from Riga, who had 
been gazing at Rohricht with rapt adoration, mentioned the stalac- 
tites. Stalactites in Arabic architecture are Rohricht's real passion. 
He smiled indulgently, as much as to say that there was no need to 
disturb such sanctities. But Babuschka appeared to misunderstand 
the word; or else perhaps she had never heard of stalactites, and 
concluded that they were casting aspersions on my honesty. Any- 
body could say that, she remarked tartly. At this my gall overflowed. 
I spoke my mind at last, and declared that all the mosques in 
Cairo, which we had seen at lightning speed under the guidance 
of Ibrahim, were arrant rubbish. Babuschka nudged me under the 
table, to bring me to my senses, but it merely had the effect of open- 
ing the flood-gates to their fullest extent. It was incredible, in the 
presence of the temples of ancient Egypt, that anybody could take 
such garish haberdashery seriously. 

Rohricht turned scarlet. But nothing could stop me now. I fell 
to abusing the Alhambra, upon which, as every one knew, he had 
written an enormous tome. The Arabic style was marked out as the 
perfect decoration for Turkish baths. I did not aim all this at 
Rohricht, however, but at the three Egyptologists, who took no 
notice of it. Rohricht can't help behaving like a kidney-specialist 
who is trying to cure toothache with white of egg. It isn't fair to 
blame him for the hopeless specialization of our science, of which 
he is the victim. At least he loves and cherishes his stalactites, like 
the priest from Spitzweg with his snake-cactus, and extracts the 
last drop of satisfaction out of them. The stalactites give him a 
meaning and a shape; and one can always consult him. The three 
explorers explored nothing, on the other hand; they belonged to 
Egypt only in office-hours, and after that they ate whatever you set 
before them: went in mufti, in fact. 

A singular result, which rejoiced my patriotic sense. Learned 
Germans can be mummified by Egypt and become as dark as 


Pharaohs, but they don't turn into civil servants. As soon as they 
appear on the scene, you know it. One of the Englishmen had the 
cheek to nod to me when I referred to the Alhambra, just as he 
had nodded to Rohricht a moment before, out of mere conventional 
stupidity. That of course infuriated rne, and I started hammering 
at Rohricht again. 

A foreign dignitary tactfully attempted to lead the conversation 
on to the animals in the Cairo zoo, and Babuschka made some 
remark about the curious baboon in this institution. Though it 
played up to the social effort on the part of the dignitary, it all 
carne to nothing and fell completely flat. 

Afterwards we sat for hours at a stretch on our loggia, and dis- 
coursed upon the vulgarity of being unable to distinguish between 
mosques and pyramids. It was a magnificent night* The starlight 
almost blistered you. We scolded our consciences and felt ourselves 
carried up to heaven. 

THE SYRIAN PRIEST. The Syrians are a wide-awake people and 
control the business of Cairo, Our neighbor is much more acces- 
sible than we had imagined, talks French, and has written a book 
on the relations of Islam with Christianity which has been reviewed 
in the orientalist monthlies at Leipzig. Sometimes he comes In to 
ask us the time, as his clock is being mended. Somebody gave him 
a bottle of hairwash, and he fortunately asked Babuschka if it was 
good to drink. The day before yesterday he took us into a second 
library, which a pasha had given to the state, near the Muski, the 
Bazaar street. We didn't find any books, however; merely coffee to 
drink and delicious cigarettes to smoke. He introduced tis to the 
pasha and a whole crowd o notables. Whea Babuschka took a fancy 
to the costume of one of the notables, a woadcrful piece of striped 
silk, they immediately summoned, from the neighborhood, a dealer, 
who produced enchanting patterns which would do perfectly for 
Babuschka's room. The Syrian, priest, however, whispered to us not 


to buy anything, as he could take us to a better shop in the Muski. 
It turned out that we knew the shop already. Ibrahim, our ragged 
mentor of past days, had taken us there; and there occurred the 
painful scene when we were made aware of his misdemeanors. Un- 
fortunately the stuffs were nothing like so beautiful, and didn't feel 
so soft, as they contained cotton, and weren't the same blue as the 
other. Our friend, the Syrian priest, considered them better and 
more durable, as they were of Syrian make. It seemed all right to 
me, but Babuschka had set her heart on the others. The obliging 
people kept bringing out new bundles, but there was nothing of 
the pattern we had seen in the library below. Every time our friend 
declared they were the best that was to be had in Cairo. It seemed 
rude to give the people so much trouble, and to disillusion our 
friend into the bargain. He made them show us silk costumes 
which Babuschka liked just as little. Such moments, trivial as they 
are, can become positively painful; and I was glad when we had 
turned our back on the bazaar. We returned to Bab el Luk, and 
praised the weather, Every day was a perfect gift. The Syrian 
priest's gentle features wore a preoccupied look. When we had 
reached our floor he invited us with friendly gestures into his room, 
which was full of boxes. We didn't venture to look behind the bed. 
We were in his cell for the first time. He showed us a couple of 
illuminated Korans, not as fine, of course, as those in the library, 
but tasteful and interesting enough. For the one we liked best he 
had been offered thirty pounds. 

When we were back in our room, Babuschka began to grin. 

"Why are you laughing?" I asked. 

"Nothing," She went on grinning. 

I sat down to the writing-table and began a letter to Hans. We 
had squandered another whole day on trivialities. The smile was still 
on her lips. 

"What arc you laughing at?" 

She went to the door, which was still open, and shut it. Then 


she laid her finger to her lips and pointed to the wall of the Syrian 
priest's room. I can't endure such cryptic signs. 

"Don't do it!" she said. 

"What do you mean?" 

She nodded towards the wall, and whispered: "Ibrahim!" 

Women are dreadful. The worst of it was, though, that the same 
thought had struck my mind a long time ago. 


As we didn't go to Gizeh yesterday, we made another attempt 
to-day. The blond doctor had warned us, as a matter of fact, that 
the museum was only open for a couple of hours; with the result 
that it was already shut when we arrived. 

At Gizeh we met a chauffeur who was going in the direction of 
Sakkara. Up to this moment we had seen the pyramids of Sakkara 
only in the distance. It was a pretty drive along the canal. The 
irrigation-wheels of today are exactly like those of three thousand 
years ago. It's queer, looking at them from a motor; as though one 
had come from another planet. 

All about here between the palm trees, so they say, we are now 
standing where once Memphis stood. The scanty remains, the two 
fallen colossi of Rameses, produce a devastating effect Maybe they 
are beautiful and count among the miracles of art. Nobody knows. 
One can't scramble over a figure and examine it all at the same 
time. Why don't they set the torsos upright? There is enough of 
them left. What a way of looking after works of art! If the French- 
man and the two Englishmen have been lately turned on to attend 
to them, it isn't so surprising, perhaps. I wish they would take the 
colossi out of sight, and bury them. That's what the Egyptians 
would have done. 

In the desert near Sakkara we counted, I fancy, ten pyramids. We 



didn't know where to begin. But then we came upon a couple of 
tombs o the Old Kingdom, and it's not too much to say that we 
have been in the Old Kingdom. In tombs where you don't feel 
entombed: tombs without mold, without worms, without ghosts, 
habitable tombs. At first Babuschka wasn't keen on going inside, 
but finally she got accustomed to the idea. In ancient Egypt the 
dead occupied whole villas with numerous rooms, antechambers, 
reception rooms, halls and closets, whose appearance made a vivicl 
impression on us. They took years, even decades, to build such 
houses and become quite used to them. They grew up alongside 
their life out of doors, and the events of their lives were recorded 
in pictures which contrived to keep them very much alive even 
when they were dead. All the episodes of life recur on the tinted 
low-reliefs on the walls: the pursuit of wealth, sowing, harvesting, 
garnering of the grain and fruit, baking, herding the different kinds 
of cattle, milking, slaughtering, fishing; journeys on the Nile, hunt- 
ing, the receipt of customs, the tribute of the peasants, men and 
women, the products of the craftsmen, dancing and games. And 
always the master in the middle, tall of stature, noble in mien, 
tranquil and affable; such was Ptahotep, a minister in the fifth 
dynasty, such was Ti, the master-builder of the royal pyramids, 
such was Mereruka. 

The people who built the pyramids could do that, too. Geometry 
could make its peace with the supple play of line in these pictures, 
even though it be but child's play, able to express itself only in the 
one dimension of a profile. They look for positions which can be 
realized in a profile, make the outline as lively as possible; and 
you get the illusion that the world has only one face which you can 
draw or model with a light touch on the accommodating limestone. 
It is a world seen in parallel planes, very simple, easily grasped, and 
yet alive. The repetition of detail is intended for the rhythm and 
at the same time it enhances the illusion. The emotion always goes 
beyond the style somewhat. What restrains it is not precept, at all 


events not a precept dictated by theology. There are no hieratic 
receipts here. The restraint lies merely in the childish lack of expert- 
ness. A simplicity schooled but not crushed by craftsmanship directs 
the chisel: a simplicity which belongs not to the fifth dynasty, and 
not even to Egypt alone, although the motifs naturally reflect the 
country of the Nile. We catch a reflection of our own simplicity 
when we were young and used to play with the round drum which 
was open at the top and had long slits in the side and was meant 
to spin round. You stuck strips of paper inside, and when you spun 
the drum round the figures danced. The strips were not half so 
beautiful as these, of course, and there weren't any hippopotamuses. 
We had jumping soldiers in spiked helmets and generals on horse- 
back. It is a foolish thought; but there is something of our own 
childhood in the pleasure of contemplating the childhood of five 
thousand years ago. 

A couple of thick lines suddenly hold up the game. The sharp 
arabesque of a mysterious man, tall and naked, the master of the 
tomb. This is no child's drawing. The complete firmness of the 
outline dispels all recollections of our childhood. The feelings it 
arouses in us are quite different. Where have we felt such rhythms 
before? Surely there are traces of this nobility in Piero della 

Such were the pictures that contributed to make the tomb memor- 
able. The mixture of nobility and childishness must have turned 
their minds beyond the thought of death; for it was full of poetry. 
It is strange how the unaccustomed idea takes hold of us, how we 
divine in this art the easy fulfillment of the simple wish to continue 
this life beyond the grave. Possibly the delicacy of the balance was 
responsible for it. A little more external reality, and the simplicity 
would have seemed foolish; a little more style, and we should have 
called it archaism. The striking thing about this sepulchral art is 
its power of staying in the mind. The context, whose circumstances 
we know, may very likely have contributed tangible suggestions of 


an external and accidental kind; but nothing interrupts the un- 
troubled train of our thoughts. Our memories take shape here not 
at the hands o objects only, but also at the bidding of the tumultu- 
ous life around us. These reliefs awaken such memories with a con- 
fidential smile. Art and man must then have lived on very intimate 
terms, and we, the late-born inhabitants of another quarter of the 
globe, succeed in establishing immediate relations with them. How 
does that come about? One would suppose that in any case the 
cult, of which we know absolutely nothing, must play a part in it: 
the mysteries, of which Joshua Dohn talks so unintelligibly, the 
whole dim mass of Egyptian mythology. And even if the cult de- 
clined later and lost its meaning, it must have lorded it in all its 
might once upon a time, as it does everywhere in the early days. 

It is even odder that we never felt a trace of it in all those pictures. 
Not a single detail alludes to any such mystification and hocus- 
pocus. There is nothing that a child of to-day couldn't understand 
at a glance. Can these people have been free of dogma ? Was hocus- 
pocus nothing to them? 

In the light of historical tradition we cannot call them godless; 
and so we must infer from their emancipated art that they were on 
extremely intimate terms with their god or gods, and that the 
divine being lay within them and never oppressed them at all They 
overcame the fear of death. They had no textbooks of doctrinaire 
moralizing. Their pictures are quite untendencious. They seem to 
have known neither heaven nor hell, neither saints nor sinners, 
and life unfolded itself without miracles. There is no retribution, 
no last judgment threatening them. Evidently they required no 
such repressions, 

I have seen relief-slabs from these tombs in European museums* 
There are some of this very period in Berlin. They come back to 
us afterwards, and I remember the friendly recognition one felt 
for them in passing. One ascribed it to some felicitous turn of style* 
In such matters the museum cannot help giving the object a false 


emphasis. We only respond to childish things when fashion or fancy 
trick us into doing so and are slow to perceive the qualities of a 
relief which misuses painting. In consequence these tomb-reliefs 
are actually more intelligible to our unprejudiced instincts, if one 
can call them instincts, than our own altarpieces. You can't ever 
quite break through the hocus-pocus of the Sienese, not even at 
Siena. The cult of the Madonna in a Simone Martini attenuates 
the style to something like an incorporeal elegance. Or else you 
break through too easily and wilt at the aridity of the formula; 
it becomes a mere number, and nothing more. The limitations of 
the motif played a great part, I know, in the development of our 
art; but the whole outlook, which is inevitably involved with a 
doomed culture and which must thus fence in its impulse towards 
sportiveness, is equally limited. The prophylactic measures of 
Catholicism lie behind it. The childishness which the Egyptians 
poured out into nature can only emerge among us by means of a 
thorny and circuitous path. One day this circuitousness must be 
recognized as a cramping restriction and be overridden. We have 
the Madonna, and we love her. Isis and Osiris mean nothing to us; 
and yet we find the images made to do honor to Isis and Osiris 
often mean more to us than the glorifications of the Madonna. 

Egyptian art, as Babuschka profoundly remarked, is a remarkable 
affair, and one really ought to do something about it. 

At Marietta House we ran across the Behns, the whole tribe of 
them, with a numerous suite, sumptuous and noisy, in three motors. 
They were just confabulating about the best place to have breakfast. 
Herr Behn voted for an al fresco meal; Frau Behn was in favor of 
the restaurant at Marietta House. The suite had various opinions. 
The luggage was waiting in one of the cars, in charge of Jean, the 
valet. As we beat a hasty retreat, Herr Behn appeared and called 
out in a nasal, imperious voice: "Jean, serve it in the desert!" 

We breakfasted on the loggia with a geologist from Vienna who 
was looking for stones in the desert, and poured forth our enthu- 

5 o EGYPT 

siasm to him. He alluded to the full length figure of Ti, from his 
tomb, and now in the museum, as something well known to us. 
I nodded, like one to whom Ti was as familiar as his own trouser- 
pocket. Naturally we didn't let on how lazy we'd been. 

Probably this figure of Ti is the key to the whole concern. The 
geologist knew Molls and had just come from Ceylon. 

Afterwards we wandered into the Serapeum: another picture 
altogether. The Serapeum is the burying place of the sacred beast, a 
large subterranean arrangement with long passages and chambers. 
You visit them by artificial light. The mummified bulls of Apis 
were laid up in granite sarcophagi of enormous size, and received 
the adoration of the people. The bull was identified with Osiris and 
became the god of the dead. We are enveloped in an impenetrable 
fog of Egyptian hocus-pocus; and want nothing so much as to be 
out in the upper air once more. 

The tomb of Ti and the Serapeum! We had learnt to know a 
smiling humanity which turned the remembrance of every living 
thing into a light rampart against death, and we had found much in 
common with them. But there was another side to the picture. 
They adored dead cattle. What induced them to do it? Brute 
strength, a fixed impulse towards copulation? One of Vitzthum's 
herd broke loose; and we children ran screaming home* I couldn't 
stop screaming for three whole days. Another bull was led along 
the road from Bozen to Eppan by four peasants who were holding 
it in with ropes. It planted itself in the middle of the road and 
refused to budge, but stood looking at us with its little eyes* At 
the Corrida at San Sebastian a Jura steer vaulted over the parapet 
and gored a gay fellow who had just beea waltzing with it* Fueatcs 
made light work of him, and with a tinkle of bells the draught 
horses galloped the pitiable carcass out of the arena. 

They worshipped cats, crocodiles, and snakes; and also the 
dung-beetle, the scarabaeus. One animal worshipped another. For 


this reason they were never cannibals. And this isn't the greatest 
mystery, either. 

Our return was agitated. Babuschka was in a temper, and I was 
vexed with her for forgetting the thermos. It was such a good 
thermos, too. 

It's no good making a tragedy out of these incidents. Where's 
the good of being depressed by the Serapeum? We can have tea 
on the terrace at Mena House and buy a new thermos when we 
get back to Cairo. What is Egypt to us? 

Our experience in the tomb of Ti was too unexpected, too quickly 
over and done with. Probably the reliefs, torn from their context, 
have been overpraised. If we could see them again now, we should 
very likely think them tedious and silly. Possibly the sarcophagi 
in the Serapeum have their good points. There's something for you 
to think about! How comes it that we can react esthetically in 
the tomb of Ti, and only ethnographically a step or two farther 
on? Can it be that those sarcophagi are really masterpieces of 
Egyptian art? One mustn't despair because sacred beasts were in a 
position to plunge men into an orgy of creation resulting in these 
extraordinary sarcophagi. 

It suddenly occurred to Babuschka that although the tomb of 
Ti and the Serapeum are quite close to each other in space, a very 
considerable stretch of time separates them, for Ti belonged to the 
Old Kingdom and the Serapeum to the New. A trifle of a thousand 
years or so divides the two buildings. 

That does help a bit. We cast about in the history of the world 
for examples of what such intervals of time really mean. One need 
only consider what a thousand years means in Greece. Not only 
religion and ethics and even culture, but the whole structure of the 
race, have dissolved. The race is born, ripens, ages, petrifies, and 
disappears within such a period; it wins and loses everything. In 
Egypt there was always something left over. 

Perhaps they took it less literally than we suppose; perhaps they 

5 2 EGYPT 

regarded the beasts as symbols just as we regard eagles, lions and 
doves. They may have found it easier to equate them with a plastic 
formula, to turn them into symbolic shape. Their relations with 
animals may have been much more human than ours; certainly 
their worship had little enough in common with our prayers, 

It is odd how difficult it is to silence an impression which we 
owe to the eye by reflecting upon it* One listens to the comparisons, 
convinces oneself of their accuracy, and yet refuses to believe a 
word of it. It is impossible to comprehend the nature of things of 
which one has no experience, even if one were able to analyze 
down to the smallest detail. 

We returned at the right moment to Gizeh, and rested; in the 
shadow of the great triangle one comes to one's senses. From our 
post by the gate of Chefren we saw the sun set. Again the Mokat- 
tam was aflame; and when a couple of clouds appeared in the sky 
the play took a more dramatic turn than ever. The whole ghostly 
city with its glassy walls and domes was on fire. But the Sphinx 
watched unceasingly before the stony tent. The work of man sur- 
passed in reality all the wonders of nature, and we forgot the bulls. 

Limestone Statue of Ti. Limestone Statue of Renofer, 

Diorltc Statue of .Chefren. 


1 HE people of ancient Egypt are presented to us in various guises. 
Sometimes they appear as standing figures, sometimes as mum- 
mies. You see things here that you never saw before; and now and 
then you are hard put to it to keep your face from setting into 
that expression of utter boredom which habitually comes over the 
visitor in a museum. The mummy-trick outdoes every fantastic 
device of the modern film. Imagine it: there, on the ground floor, 
are various statues of the great Rameses; upstairs, the same man's 
corpse tidily put away under glass. Sensation swarms up the walls! 
The unpacked mummies are genuine, no doubt, and properly 
identified, but you wouldn't call them exactly beautiful. They are 
astonishingly well preserved considering their age, but not so well 
as to make one long for intimate contact with them. In fact, I must 
confess they are the greatest monstrosity I ever encountered in an 
art-institute; and that is saying a good deal. If the art-institute in 
Cairo is to be a museum and not merely an enormous warehouse, 
they really must refrain, in the interest of the visitors, from dis- 
playing corpses cheek by jowl with works o art. However, one 
can't waste time over such trifles here. 

We have seen the people of the pyramids: Chefren, Mykerinos, 
Ti the master-builder, and many more whose statues they have 
brought here from the temples and burial-places. One's amazement 



at the fact is not dispelled by the positive conviction, astounding as 
it is, that one can get to know the faces of people who lived fifty 
centuries ago. One never noticed it at Sakkara. True enough, the re- 
liefs told us o the things they played with in their everyday lives, 
and of the poetry with which they invested them. There was noth- 
ing wanting. This, in fact, was just the sort of information the 
reliefs were capable of conveying; this was what gave them their 
charm and added the perfect touch to the surrounding atmosphere. 
One would never have expected the builders of the pyramids to do 
anything childish. The same is true of the round sculpture stand- 
ing about in the rooms. One would never have expected the carvers 
of the reliefs to produce those statues. The great profiles of Sakkara, 
a couple of which and those among the finest are preserved in 
the collection in Cairo, are arabesques in the most exalted style: 
wonderful linear melodies; but simply linear, and inevitably so, since 
nothing more substantial can be represented by those means. A 
stronger emphasis on portraiture would have upset their relation- 
ship with the rest of the graphic decorations. 

The standing figures turned the villas of the dead into something 
more than a decor, plain and simple; they made them inhabited. 
The formal completion of the one genre by means of the other is 
indispensable, for the relief supports the sculptured stress and 
furnishes the statue with a linear frame. The painted decoration 
constituted a very positive bond between them; and often it can 
only be understood as a means to domestic harmony. The destruc- 
tion of this unity is lamentable. The house of Ti without its statue, 
without the incarnate cautious amiability of its master, is a mere 
fragment. The feminine decoration of the walls lacks the manly 
seriousness of the sculpture; and one can imagine how much more 
fragmentary in effect are the pieces of mural decoration that they 
cut out and carry off to Europe or America. The statue, on the 
other hand, is not bound up with the setting for which it was con- 
trived. It is an absolute' work of art and bears placing in a museum, 


even in this Cairo store. You cannot efface it. Ti would create 
his own atmosphere in any room. 

These are the people of the pyramids. The accent lies on the 
second word. Our imagination requires no stage in order to pro- 
duce them; and no questions are asked. Above all, they are people, 
realized in a complete plastic shape. At the pyramids our fancy 
may play tricks with us; the Sphinx, that creature of rock and pyra- 
mid, which belongs nowhere but in the desert, may trifle with our 
romantic fancies; but these statues have arms and legs and cannot 
deceive us. The syntax of their anatomy is too familiar to us for 
that; and as connoisseurs we have long since acquired an agility 
which leaps every geographical boundary and gathers the sculpture 
of China and Crete and Cologne and New Guinea into one room, 
onto one table. So long as the stone is alive, we snap our fingers 
at everything else. 

The curious thing about these statues is the readiness with which 
they lend themselves to every experiment. As though they knew 
how we look at things they stand before us stripped, not merely 
of clothes, but also of every stylistic elaboration which we should 
have to remove before we reached their human significance. They 
have forestalled us by giving up all decoration. They impress us 
with all the force of naked fact so naked, indeed, that the merest 
nothing is needed to invest them with all the glamor of the pyramid- 
dwellers. This impressiveness is something profounder than their 
physical reality and carries us beyond the sensory world. It attains 
to a degree of conviction which in Europe one meets with only in 
painting, I now know that none of our thoughts about the might 
of the Sphinx and the Pyramids was exaggerated. 

The first thing that strikes us is their lifelikeness. The diorite 
Chefren on his lion-headed throne is supremely lifelike. One be- 
lieves that one could substitute the living original for the stone* 
Even at the first glance our immediate reactions meet with no 
check; and more than this, as we gaze our eyes travel unconsciously 


and rhythmically over the surface of body and limbs, discovering 
new details with every change of standpoint. Thus the actual life- 
likeness becomes symbolic. Naturally there are no warts on the face 
or scars on the legs. We do not notice it, however, for our first 
reaction, as though to a living original, has given place to a sense 
of the stone; and black and yellow spotted diorite knows nothing 
of warts and scars. 

The material provided for the pyramid-builders was stone. The 
Sphinx is conceivable only in stone. Stone lay ready to the Egyp- 
tian's hand; and he handled it, as in other ages men have handled 
brush and canvas. They made enchanting things in wood and 
metal, but stone carried them beyond mere enchantment. No other 
material spurred them to the highest flights of abstraction. Their 
wood and metal sculpture is purely ornamental. Even works like 
the Village Magistrate and the great bronze statues of King Phiops 
and his little son are of that order. The comfortable wooden Vil- 
lage Magistrate possesses a realism which at first sight surpasses 
the reality of the stone sculptures; but the impression doesn't last. 
His lifelikeness does not depend on warts and scars either, but on 
the niceties of form. You can imagine him reduced, but not en- 
larged; whereas Chefren would suit any scale. The lifesize statues of 
Phiops in bronze or copper are also unique in their bewildering 
reality; but they speak more of race than of individual Their 
Semitic look is the most striking thing about them, I couldn't help 
thinking of the Leipzig lady and her anti-Semitism, Phiops, father 
and son, are extraordinarily Jewish looking. Their beauty has doubt- 
less been helped by the patina of time: an aid of which the preci- 
sion of the noblest Egyptian works makes them independent. 

Which stands higher: the precision of the diorite statue, or its 
freedom? Type and individual seem one. As king, Chefren was a 
god; and the sculptor regarded him as divine and knew what he 
stood for. He made the divinity of the man so impressive that we 
recognize him out of thousands; and that too, when we have such 


difficulty in telling one native from another. To this day I only 
recognize our Ibrahim by his missing eye. 

This business of resemblance is a difficult problem. In the hall of 
Chefren is the alabaster statue of King Mykerinos, also seated and 
gazing in front of him, also naked but for his similar apron and 
royal headdress. The position of the body is precisely the same. 
Mykerinos belonged to the same dynasty and was the immediate 
successor of Chefren: a near relative, probably his son. He prob- 
ably had some family likeness to his predecessor, we may infer. 
In a small alabaster statue in the Museum, which passes as Chefren, 
this resemblance goes so far that we might give this statute to 
Mykerinos, Nevertheless, the diorite statue is one man and the 
alabaster quite another: two utterly different characters and tem- 
peraments, each with its own disposition and way of thinking. 
Chefren is obviously sensitive and intelligent, thoroughly noble and 
kingly; the other, sturdy and superficial, passive rather than active. 
The differences may have been otherwise; but in no sense were 
they men of the same stamp. Though they were gods they repre- 
sent two generations with all the notorious distinctions between 

The whole range of Egyptian art lies before us; but we need not 
relate how it advanced from the royal statues o the fourth dynasty 
to the diorite statue of Chefren or the alabaster statue of Mykerinos, 
for this question touches us comparatively little. We can visualize 
this development a good deal more easily than the creation of 
masterpieces much nearer to us in date. Judged by our standards, 
the artist's personal share in the conception was remarkably re- 
stricted. So much the more vigorous, then, was their tradition; arid 
we inevitably begin to talk of formulas. In this we are amply justi- 
fied by the Pyramids, which are nothing if not a formula. On the 
other hand, the formula for the human body, as designed in the 
earlier periods, is much harder to define. Above all, just as we 
think we can grasp it, the formula melts iitto the natural organism; 


and this corresponds so obligingly to our conceptions that in similar 
circumstances we should be ready- indeed, only too willing to 
accept a like convention for the human body. But the circumstances 
are unrealizable, of course; though neither our feelings nor our 
knowledge preclude them. We have to fall back on stupid super- 
ficial obstacles like the lack of stone and kings rather than admit 
that we cannot adapt ourselves to the old tradition. This theoret- 
ical readiness grows when we turn from the statues of kings to the 
numberless figures and groups from the Old Kingdom which be- 
long to a humbler social level and are made of less refractory 
material Then one feels inclined to dismiss all fundamental obsta- 
cles and concentrate on the question of models. 

This troublesome question of models ought certainly not to be 
underrated. We are the more inclined to attach supreme import- 
ance to it inasmuch as this concession to our pride appears at 
first sight to involve comparatively small sacrifices, for it would 
clearly be unfair to blame our art for the lack of suitable subject- 

That they tjad excellent models we can easily convince ourselves 
even now at any street-corner. Though the Fellaheen no longer go 
naked, their voluminous robes are loose enough to show every form. 
They stand like columns, all built from the same good pattern 
and not degraded by the accidents of hackwork. The city has not 
warped them. Everywhere you see natives in white caftan and 
thickly twisted turban. Above all, the servants are the aristocrats 
and the gentry are the proletariat, a state of things which also ob- 
tains in Europe. Only in England do gentlemen almost equal 
waiters in looks and ladies occasionally surpass their housemaids: 
a dazzling tribute to a civilization uncorroded by the intellect. 
Elsewhere it's the same story over and over again. Only in Egypt, 
however, have I noticed this optic effect in so marked a degree. 
Here there are no exceptions. Dr. Meyerhof maintains that you 
would never get into touch with the native even if you consorted 


with him daily for twenty years. Our external appearance would 
account for that. What must they think of Mr. Coolman or the 
Behn family or the Parisian goat! To them we are grotesque crea- 
tures with money, and the only thing that induces them to speak 
to us is the hope of fleecing us. 

Yet until our ugliness, a thing of yesterday, made its appearance, 
there were no natives anywhere who did not know how to carry 
themselves. Models do not produce artists. Countless races share 
the same heaven and are still on a level with the Eskimos as far as 
astronomy is concerned. You cannot put it down to geography. 
However, our studio notions don't take us very far. Of course they 
knew nothing of Art or Artists, and the Pyramids are not Cubism; 
on the other hand they were uncommonly interested in the ma- 
terial representation of human beings. This much we do know; 
and we can sleep secure in that knowledge, for it conceals the 
reason why they reached not only a certain height but actually this 
summit a summit as much for us as for them. Without undue 
rashness we might add that it implies a culture and that that cul- 
ture implies a social hierarchy. And of this social hierarchy we 
know only that it exempted the models from the necessity of serv- 
ing as waiters and asking Mr. Coolman for a tip, 

Babuschka has a heap of thick history-books with her, all the 
best that can be got. As a result of her enquiries all sorts of strange 
acrostics have been solved. If the distance amounts to a thousand 
miles one may assume that we have already covered a tenth of a 
millimeter; it is only right and proper that the learned should keep 
one toe on the earth. A tenth of a millimeter is enormous. The 
three idiots who were breakfasting with Herr von K., and whom 
I now see every day bustling about with terrifying self-importance 
in the storehouse, are not the only people at work; though they may 
contribute their mite to the tenth of the millimeter. For the lay- 
man it is little enough. I do not understand how the sculptor, who 
believed that the king was a god, succeeded in representing him so 


that he now can thaw into a human being. One would like to 
know that above all things. This actuality does not seem to us com- 
patible with collective creation. I mean, of course, this degree o 
actuality. Even a child can produce some sort of actuality. The 
reliefs at Sakkara are full of it. Here, however, we are up against 
a superiority which we are in the habit of attributing to none but 
great personalities, to the destroyers of the collective spirit: a spiri- 
tual superiority which, in our experience, is only achieved after a 
desperate struggle with the collective spirit. 

The supposition that such spirituality is a leading force in early 
periods of a culture and its attendant art is contradicted by every- 
thing that we know of the development of art. The development has 
reached a head; where are the remains of the primitive? In Egypt 
there are no inarticulate moans and benighted stammerings; the 
sculptors of the Old Kingdom knew everything that we know today. 
Their grasp of anatomy was not, as among the artists of the Quat- 
trocento and Cinquecento, a discovery of their own to be gloated 
over, but an inheritance from former ages to which they had been 
accustomed from childhood. They could play about with any part of 
the body and let it go; they knew the secrets of simplification like 
ripe masters and let the childish self-made men of Sakkara go about 
their own business. The maker of the diorite statue was an artist 
in the fullest sense of the word, as we understand it: a creator with 
an unrestricted mastery of his idea, authoritative and subtle, since 
subtlety was his province. Creation was spontaneous, and complete. 
All the supports of the skeleton are at rest. An arm will show its 
joints and the swell of its muscles without being at all naturalistic. 
On the pedestal the soft flesh plays over the shin-bone, but the 
movement is confined by the structure of the surface. The hand 
could open, the head could turn, but you expect it as little as you 
expect a capital to turn on its column. The ear and all parts of the 
face are brilliantly modeled, but fit together in the mathematical 
form. The flesh on the body is soft and firm, both at once, and 

Village Magistrate. V Dynasty. Bronze Statue of King Phiops 

and His Son. 

Alabaster Statue o Mykerinos. 


muscular without showing the muscles; it softens the stern ar- 
rangement of the surfaces. 

One is never tempted to forget the stone; indeed, one cannot 
forget it. They left it in places where otherwise there would have 
been holes; these discreet fillings have a logic which today we can 
recognize only by dint of severe self-denial. They understood stone 
as they understood the body, and their style seems only a natural 
result of their proper handling of the material. The spotted black 
and yellow diorite and alabaster were made for this kind of sculp- 
ture; no other substance is imaginable. None the less, these statues, 
whose present condition seems flawlessly complete, were once 
painted. So the learned say; to me at least the idea is repellent. 
Not only the noble material, but the animated play of light over 
the surface, which to us and surely to their creator also forms 
so great a part of their effect, must then have been concealed, or 
at all events greatly reduced, by paint. One has the greatest diffi- 
culty in believing it. Or did they reckon with the impermanence 
of paint? 

The statues stood in the houses of the dead, to keep the gods 
of the dead from making mistakes. For that reason a likeness was 
essential. When the features were obliterated by decay, which they 
tried to ward off by every means in their power, the plastic counter- 
feit served to identify the withered forms: a favorable stimulus, 
obviously of the greatest advantage to art. The achieving of a like- 
ness henceforth introduced a note of actuality; whereas in other 
cultures this actuality only attained a restricted scope with the 
weakening of the religious impulse, and then merely through a 
specific realism which was often isolated in portraiture, and to which 
other more comprehensive tendencies were sacrificed. Among the 
Egyptians the effort remained a means to an end, and led not to 
the egotistic portrait but to a permanent exercise of the creative 
faculties to which all the aspects of art had access. The result was an 


unusually auspicious equipoise of the representational requirements 
of art and the exactions of nature. 

The diorite statue of Chefren is as realistic as it is monumental 
This announcement will excite nobody, as we have all just been 
told the same thing about Mr. Jones's war memorial at Srnithville. 
The value of the comparison lies in the specific gravity of both 
factors. If I could indicate the monumentality of the Chefren by 
a comparison, or any other method, it might be possible for me 
to give some conception, likewise, of its realism. I have tried in 
vain. It is not that we lack monumental works with a realism of 
their own; it is superfluous, however, to put the reader to the trouble 
of journeying from these works to the Chefren. The fact that our 
works are sometimes made of stone and sometimes also represent 
kings is a bond in common; but we cannot derive much solid 
satisfaction from it and are likely to lose ourselves in a maze of 

In the magazine at Cairo there stands by the staircase leading 
to the first floor a monumental lion of the Ptolemaic period which 
came as a relief to us, almost like a familiar friend in his stiff heral- 
dic fashion. He sits on his hindquarters, and his mane, cut straight 
in front, consists of even curls, while his neck is covered with simi- 
lar wavy ornamentation. The whole creature is a highly effective 
ornament. From this Egyptian lion my mind can travel to the Ro- 
manesque lions at the portals of a Lombard cathedral, or even to the 
lions of ancient China. For relevant comparisons with such monu- 
ments one has to look among the primitives. Once in possession of 
this link, I can overlook it the better to appreciate its reality; and 
so long as even a small connection remains, I can pass over. 

Every attempt of this sort goes to pieces upon the diorite statue. 
Its style transcends the known genres and touches at its height 
the indefinite regions of the classic, a fluent comparison which has 
long seemed commonplace. 

A single almost heraldic detail helps the head of Chefren, Under 


his chin the king wears the stereotyped beard-support, which we 
can easily think away and which many royal statues lack, and over 
his forehead the schematic headdress which relates him to the 
Sphinx, an ingenious and becoming arrangement enveloping the 
royal wig and replacing the crown. This was a great opportunity 
for the sculptor. The Egyptians knew what was appropriate to a 
royal head. Our crowns, except when confined to a simple fillet, 
have the severe disadvantage of isolating the head and making it 
look insecure. The Egyptians invented, for their greater ceremonies, 
the two high, cap-like crowns, red and white, for the northern 
and the southern kingdoms; one was broad and of moderate height, 
while the other was extremely tall and rose to a point, a magnifi- 
cent tiara topped with a round knob, adding dignity to the body 
and ideally completing its structure. Often they wore spreading, 
curved and ribbed appendages on either side which contribute to the 
relief -effect; these, perhaps, are a relic of the lion wig. The exag- 
gerated height has an irresistible chic. The Catholic clergy made use 
of these forms; the crozier and the great mantle enveloping the 
body were invented on the banks of the Nile. The beard-support, 
which in later days was often longer, turned into the priest's pec- 
toral. The superb tiara was converted in course of time into the 
papal crown; and there was never an Italian peasant's face that did 
not acquire awe-inspiring dignity from such an adornment. 

Chefren needed no such finery; it might perhaps even hinder 
our approach to him. The simple attire of the head has this in- 
estimable advantage for the sculptor, that it announces the union of 
the head with the torso and covers up the abrupt angle between 
neck and shoulders. The cloth lies smooth and tight over the fore- 
head and falls from the crown of the head behind the ears in two 
parallel folds over the shoulders, which, however, it leaves free; 
it then runs over the breast in two short ribbed ends of equal 
breadth, so that the head is framed as by a mane, though easily 
and familiarly withal. The back of the head is encircled by Horus 


the falcon, with his pinions, the symbol of the god. It is, I believe, the 
only representation of the kind in a statue; so that we may see in 
it no automatic empty badge of royalty but a personal mark be- 
longing to Chefren himself. In any case we need no mythology, 
no Horus legend, in order to understand it. The open wings are a 
convincing symbol and the artistic solution does everything to carry 
that conviction far beyond the commonplaces of heraldry. The bird 
perches with its claws in the middle of the support behind the 
king's head. The head, with its curved beak, rises a little above the 
king and the almost equal wings embrace the whole headdress 
and reach forward almost to the place where the ribbed ends begin. 
The effect of the ornament seems like the happiest accident in the 
world. Any artist of today who wishes to celebrate a king might 
well borrow the idea. Any great man, intent on spiritual things, 
might thus be glorified. When Rodin set a demon in human shape 
blowing into Victor Hugo's ear he realized in a moment of rare 
insight, though expressing it in unfamiliar terms, that demon and 
poet are indeed one. The limiting of this falcon idea to an orna- 
mental device, which cannot and is not intended to be fully 
visible from in front, is a tactical masterstroke which is, I think, 
characteristic of the whole imagination of the Old Kingdom. It is 
not the king, but the divine beast, who is heraldic. The falcon 
rapidly and almost imperceptibly becomes the regular device on the 
soldier's helmet. The unusual type is rendered inconspicuous by the 
way it is arranged. Unless they saw Chefren in profile it is likely 
that his subjects never observed the divine symbol, which, as a 
fact, was not necessary to arouse their respect and awe. The man 
rose above his mark of rank and thrust it back. 

Perhaps no ordinary mortals ever set foot in this temple. The 
crowd thronged outside in front of the sun-god with the lion's body 
and the features of Chefren, and sacrificed to the illustrious watcher. 
But here within the temple the king threw oft the mask aad be- 


came a man in all his naked dignity. The form is worthy of the 
idea. The cult of the beast had already lost its terrors. 

The diorite statue stood with others of its kind in the granite 
hall of the temple of Chefren at Gizeh, below the Sphinx. The 
effect of the man enthroned amid the rigid masonry, the play of 
color from the green-flecked stone to the red granite must have 
been incomparable. It is harder than ever to believe that this was 

Babuschka and I disputed for ages over Chefren's type. To her, 
the beauty of the statue lies in its disdain of all heroic pomp, nega- 
tive though this attribute may be. She maintains, moreover, that 
the man must certainly have played a part in Egyptian literature, 
and she would like to corroborate the dignity of Chefren by giving 
him personal preferences such as we are glad to ascribe to the mon- 
archs of our own day. 

In the afternoon, as we were wandering idly over the yellow 
sand of Gizeh, we realized that a Pharaoh who had himself wor- 
shipped as a sphinx and buried in a pyramid hardly corresponded 
with our notions of simplicity; and that what we stigmatize as the 
exaggerated pomp of our potentates is actually an excessively modest 
allowance of splendor. 


AMONG the many the far too many masterpieces in the first 
hall of the Museum, where the diorite statue of Chefren stands, 
there is a limestone group under glass. It is our piece; we call it the 
Family. There are many other attractions, of course, in this hail- 
notably the diorite statue and if the room contained nothing else, 
it would be enough. But the scale of this work, though quite ap- 
proachable, makes us unable to feel for it what we feel for the 
family. The Chefren statue breathes the air of the temple: not 
necessarily of that gateway of red granite blocks where it stood with 
its replicas in front of the columns to such good effect; but the 
air of temples generally. It is a monument. Our family, on the other 
hand, we can, so to speak, carry about with us. The glass case is 
barely a meter high; and although the group, like all others, was 
destined for the purposes of the cult, it has a feeling about it that 
one may without exaggeration call intimate. There are such works. 
Sooner or later, for the most part, one's frivolous relations with 
them break down; works which surrender their secret at once and 
yet retain their power to please are extremely rare. 

The family belongs, moreover, to the small number of minor 
pieces in this room which it is possible to see properly. The glass 
case stands free. The group consists of four people side by side, 
man, woman, and two sons. The man is seated; his wife and chil- 


King Mykerinos with two Goddesses. 

Our Family. Ni-Ra-Anch. (Limestone) 


dren stand. Such groups are common in early times. Often too, 
especially when there are no children by, the wife sits beside her 
husband and is the same size as he. The man, as usual, is naked 
down to the inevitable apron, and his skin bears tiraces of red- 
brown paint, whereas the gray of the other comes nearer the 
natural color of the limestone. In any case the other also was 
originally painted. We recognize the remains of color on the breast 
and hips of the woman; and this time the pure idea and the ma- 
terial trappings do not conflict. They have replaced the man's 
head, which had come off but was fortunately undamaged. The 
wife and one of the sons have lost their heads. The wife, on the 
right of the seated figure, and both the sons are considerably 
smaller. She wears the usual close-fitting garment which leaves the 
feet free, and holds her right arm straight in front of her. With 
outstretched hand she touches her husband's arm. Her other arm 
disappears behind his shoulder and embraces him. The two sons 
stand on either side, to left and right. All four figures of course 
look straight in front of them. The woman and the son near her 
stand in the same plane as the upper part of the man, while the 
other son stands level with his father's legs. The only connection 
lies in the woman's gesture, and even this does not affect the 
frontal position of her body. Moreover, the woman's right hand 
does not grasp her husband's arm, but merely touches it. with the 
tips of her unbent and strictly parallel fingers: a conventional ges- 
ture which is often found. The man's attitude is not in the least 
affected by her touching him. He sits solidly there, well aware 
that he is sitting for his portrait; his features are fixed and set. 
The attitude is important, but other things are more so. A repressed 
smile plays on his young face. There is something beautiful about 
the man's physical self-command. Under its patterned wig his head 
is balanced on his broad shoulders; again, the wig, which comes 
down over his cheeks, makes an effective setting. His figure tapers 
gently; one feels the well-knit athletic body. No fat, no super- 


fluous muscle, good breeding, health and youthful freshness. W< 
saw more surprising lines in the great profiles at Sakkara, and ii 
the reliefs at the museum we have found one or two sublirm 
contours: for instance, in the dark wooden panel of the thirc 
dynasty with the priest Hesire a profile with something of th< 
elan of a Mohican. All that Egyptian relief can offer us is possessec 
by this family group, which means an irresistible fascination 
Nevertheless sculpture in the round is richer in content; it is les 
easy to take in these solid effects. A whole world of new tones rise 
up; and its beauty lies in the cooperation of forces held in restraint 
face, limbs, parts mean less and the whole means more. This beaut] 
is more lasting; it is more spontaneous and natural, and less a luck] 
glimpse than a normal and static condition. The boys also have i 
charm which it is hard to define; the putti of the Quattrocento ar< 
prettier, but hardly attain to this solid reality. Their quaintness ha: 
none of the sweet and comic qualities that help a foreigner to sue 
cess. They are men on a small scale and stand there like grown-ups 
left foot advanced, right hand on breast and the other stretched ai 
their side, weighty and solemn. They know their places and plaj 
no pranks and are merely a small portion of the whole. You mighi 
call them their parents' supporters. Like cadences they bring th< 
group to a close on either side. It is remarkable how well the foui 
figures work together, though they are on two distinct planes 
The difference of plane gives a feeling of space in spite of the flat 
relief -like treatment. 

Although the woman has no head she fulfills quite adequate!} 
the role of partner. Her body would have been admired in Paris ; 
until boyish fashions came in and the breasts disappeared, as jausst 
mctigre; very thin with round and not too full breasts and long 
thighs like an odalisque's, sweeping to the knee in an uninterrupted 
gentle curve, as Ingres would have had it. The dress consists of two 
parts: the tight skirt which finishes off short below the breasts and 
a thin piece of stuff covering the breast, cut off abruptly below and 


fastened on the shoulder with brooches. It is the most becoming 
dress imaginable for the matchless body. 

One never tires of their beauty. Their charm is not confined to 
their natural inheritance of unmistakable breeding, nor to their 
perfect bodily condition. It is not these peculiarities, striking as they 
are, that captivate us. It is the family, the company of four people, 
not their merely formal harmony. At the first glance we felt it, if 
only as a premonition. We did not fail, of course, to notice the un- 
usual diminution of the wife's proportions, but no one interpreted 
that as a slight upon her, not only because there were plenty of 
groups all round without this difference, which would have dis- 
pelled our suspicion that this might be a cryptic allusion, but also 
because just this diminution of scale enhanced the attraction of this 
woman and the whole group, and even the irresistible charm of the 
attitude it implied. The diminution of scale increased the specifi- 
cally feminine effect and emphasized the tender womanly gesture. 
Even if this gesture, the only one in the whole group, was made 
by agreement, none the less we detect in it a peculiar gentleness 
and in the smile with which the man responds we cannot mistake 
his appreciation of her devotion. If it is purely conventional we 
infer that not only the people of this group but all the rest of their 
circle were equally devoted to each other. The position of the chil- 
dren as supporters to the parents gives us a very fair insight into 
the relation between the two generations. Here we have a family. 

It occurs to me that in Europe no such sculptured family group 
exists. Sculpture did not exist for that purpose; and if occasionally 
it served such ends it usually beat a hasty retreat. In our palmy 
days groups were made solely for churches: scenes from the Passion, 
a Pieta, the Women at the Cross. Families were confined to paint- 
ing. Such orders inspired the artist to representations which are 
often enough masterpieces. Painting very seldom got beyond an 
indication of the sitter's social status, though of course it suggested 
that he was human. (Who could deny that to van Eyck or Rem- 


brandt or Greco!) But in the nature of things his humanity got 
entangled in his clothes. Painting thus seized the excuse of lighten- 
ing its labors by investigating the attributes of knights, potentates, 
and burghers. Only an abnormally intense personality succeeded 
in completely objectifying his clothes and protecting the art which 
had escaped from the clutches of the priests and turning it into a 
class-production. For which reason it retired into private life, and 
never attained to the independent universal humanity of our family 
of the fifth dynasty. It is doubtful how this universalization could 
come about in a society which we are accustomed to regard as the 
class-state par excellence and recur not as an accident in defiance of 
established order, but a hundredfold, a thousandfold, till it really 
corresponded to a mass-instinct. 

I am amazed at the quality of these mass-products and their 
intimate expressiveness; I wonder how conventionality could be 
content with arrangement and gesture and give the sculptor free 
access to every bodily fact. When the clothes fall aside the man's 
body seems to be released from a case for which we always have 
to make allowances when representing the naked body. I do not 
know whether the usual explanation of this phenomenon, which 
connects it with their custom of going naked, is the right one; 
still less do I know whether, in fact, they did go about naked. 
With us the body becomes something abstract as soon as the clothes 
are removed: a situation from which only the baroque has found 
an escape. Nothing is less baroque than Egyptian art; no vaporous 
play or convolution issues from it. Nothing is less stiff, either, or 
less stylized. In front of our family nobody thinks of the object 
of sculpture. The studio-product called a model, which in Europe 
results from the disappearance of the sculptor behind his object, a 
soulless stone with, at most, an interesting head: this substratum, 
which only our most renowned masters lose sight of on the rare 
occasions when they see the nude without dramatizing its activity, 
does not exist in Egypt. Once upon a time when captivated by 


the baroque I failed to see clearly, or perhaps overlooked, this 
substratum in Michelangelo. Now I see it so clearly that it seems 
to me the fundamental difference between Egypt and ourselves; 
and I track the model like the scent of an animal, the residue of an 
exercise in virtuosity which in spite of every expenditure of effort 
was in the last instance useless since it clung obstinately to the 

The problem of our sculpture, even at its highest moments, thus 
presents itself; and I tremble when I summon up our most famous 
achievements in this hall of Chefren. It is no good hiding our head 
in the sand and pretending that it's no business of ours; it is no good 
reminding ourselves that Egypt was something different. No: it is 
not different, cannot be different; or we should cease to be any- 
thing ourselves. It is only because Egyptian art has qualities which 
excite our senses and lead us to make readjustments which have 
long been needed but which would never have come to fruition 
without a stimulus from outside, that it has any value for us; and if 
we decline to follow where the finger points, we are no sun- 
worshippers. These Egyptians mean nothing to Egypt and the 
remote past, but for our present world they are of supreme im- 
portance. I am not talking of education, which is not my affair, 
but I am announcing the fact of a spiritual experience. The famous 
conventions of this art, so far as they remain impenetrable, have 
nothing to do with the case, and become a refuge for those who 
flee from the responsibility of thinking. For all the severity of 
their conventions the Egyptians of the earlier dynasties expressed 
themselves in sculpture as naturally as men of genius in our own 
day have done with brush or point. This is one fact, and the most 
surprising: the naturalness of their conventional art. And the re- 
sults of this manipulative skill are not sketches and fragments but 
complete realities. The latent aspects, however, which connect them 
with our own works and without which we should be unmoved, 
the motive power within the work which sustains us, the element 


which we have to supply upon reaching the common limit of the 
senses in a word, their associations: these too they possess and 
cherish. Their associations one must complete the idea behind the 
awkward expression come across to us without any baroque assist- 
ance, without the slightest help from any stimulants, but in com- 
plete tranquillity at a distance of goodness knows how many cen- 

Our family is partly naked; but the rhythm of their forms 
clothes them for us. Their forms are those which we can use in 
order to clothe people with our affection for them. I love the odd 
dignity of the two young men, the noble figure of their father and 
the unadorned comeliness of his face, with the brow behind whicti 
there is no room for any mean thoughts. I love the rounded but 
slender limbs of the woman, whose love was smiling and supple. 
But better than all is their mutual tenderness and pleasure in 
each other's company. A convention again; but one that sees noth- 
ing but beauty and wonder without hindrance. I associate it with 
what appears to be an anachronistic conception. It belongs to the 
city; or rather, since the foreign word is more comprehensive, I 
would call it urbane. And the implications of that carry us further 
and further into the distance, I fancy. 

Naturally enough, this and every convention are fundamentally 
alien to our mannerless age; still we can feel their echo, and even 
by a sort of romantic connoisseurship can identify ourselves with 
them. The further away it is in actual fact the more firmly we 
grasp the principle and draw near in our dreams to this ideal 
family relationship. Thus would we be, with and without a family, 
had we the opportunity of living another life. It is impossible, I 
know. Our native meanness, our animal-worship and a thousand 
petty trifles hinder us not one only: the geographical obstacle. It 
is not enough to have been born five thousand years ago and to 
have a dark skin. It is a question of conventions. There are no such 


conventions; but there well might be. They are conceivable; they 
are not African alone, but perfectly good European as well. 

Again, as always in this hall, we have a feeling that we cannot 
express, but which also crossed our minds at the Pyramids and 
in front of the reliefs at Sakkara. Everything in ancient Egypt, in 
fact, speaks to us in the same way. This beauty is part of us, belongs 
to us, and to my mind is the possession of our dreams. There we 
belong to this family. 

Without our willing it our minds run on when we stand before 
this group. It has long ceased to be art and has become human. 
We have embarked on a conversation without words, an intimacy 
of a serious sort not the sort that leads to a comfortable, happy-go- 
lucky relationship. Our intercourse, though easy, is more finely 
wrought. There is no idle toying, but a determination to improve 
our form and realize our dream. 

Such a relationship, of course, becomes feasible only in the 
realm of literature and art, in the cheerful presence of enlightened 
people who can appreciate such a dream and disengage it from the 
tangle of existence. We can hardly expect such things at present, 
seeing that we regard such a search as comic and almost indecent 
and seeing that we hardly dare hope to recover any general belief 
in the value of the urbane from the obstinate loneliness of our 
personal existence. Part of its value came from the time and place 
and the congregation of many kindred spirits. So it happened that 
I remembered the most urbane community that Europe has ever 
produced : Paris. Oh no, not the Parisian Messieurs. They have none 
of the frank gaze of the uncontaminated youth of the fifth dynasty. 
Nor indeed Parisian women; though, if I remember rightly, they 
could bear comparison with that slender little creature. No: it was 
nothing personal; personal contacts in Paris mostly result in bitter- 
ness and disillusion and disgust. Why then do we love the place and 
live there for years and feel at home there? Not on account of the 
Louvre, outside or in, not on account of any building, or because 


the gardens, squares and streets are more attractive there than 
elsewhere, or the pictures more numerous. Anything you could 
photograph would be merely incidental. It is rather because it is 
easier to live in these gardens, squares and streets, and among the 
people in these gardens, squares and streets: because one's con- 
tacts here cause less friction and yet are closer, because one feels 
something like the atmosphere that envelops our Family. It is con- 
vention again; not that of the second Empire or the first, not that of 
Louis Seize or Louis Quinze in particular, but a little of all at once. 
It glitters like a mote in the sunbeam, is everywhere and nowhere, 
and in men to my mind it shows itself only in their most super- 
ficial actions. It shows itself in the accidental appearance, only 
yesterday, of a painter like Corot, that most actual and agreeable 
of beings. His private instincts at times bring him very near our 

Corot and ancient Egypt! People will think I am going crazy. 
Of course I am not being serious: no, indeed. I can't explain, and 
would gladly admit the possibility of its all being written out in 
hieroglyphs on the foot of our statue, which prevents its helping 
us much. I don't understand hieroglyphs and regret it, but if the 
possession of such knowledge prevented my desire to explain the 
mystery I would rather be without it. For the mystery is what 
captivates us; and it applies as much to our group as to Corot's 
pictures. What we call his Greek aspect, and might with more 
reason call his Egyptian aspect, is his power of communicating 
with kindred spirits and bringing them together: his spontaneous 
persuasiveness. Without it Corot would be a landscape-painter, a 
portraitist, a man in the wood, but not Corot. And when he was 
painting his women he was as unaware of it as the sculptor of our 
family was incapable of anticipating our remote age. 

One cannot say more, still less write more without running the 
risk of becoming too compact and spoiling the atmosphere of 


urbanity. Criticism can therefore dispense with the religious back- 
ground of this art. The repose of such sublimities is unassailable. 
As we were inspecting the woman again today, Babuschka said: 
"Tell me, am I fatter than she is?" 


have perused the literature concerning our family-group and 
learnt nothing. Our group stood in a tomb too, and was made to 
provide company for the departed spirit (of our friend, naturally) 
and to introduce him to the gods of the dead. His name, the 
hieroglyphs inform us, was Ni-Ra-Anch. When he died, the man 
was of course much older, and his wife was presumably no longer 
so slim, and the two boys had grown into men. Very likely he was 
already older when he sat to the sculptor; although that cannot be 
taken for granted, for all Egyptians thought like their kings, and 
with an eye to their future state made leisurely preparation for 
their eternal dwelling. They wished to be represented in the prime 
of life, though for ritual reasons the likeness had to be absolutely 
exact; hence idealization on a basis of reality. Our group is dis- 
tinguished from all other families by its physiognomic, not by its 
plastic qualities. Only gradually do we become aware of its artistic 
distinction; the individuality of the subjects, however, we recognize 

In the entrance to the second hall, where the bronze statue is, 
there stands rather too high, unfortunately a limestone group of a 
standing pair, man and wife, of equal size before a stone wall 
covered with hieroglyphs: an elderly pair. The woman has the 
usual tight garment and holds out her right arm in the inevitable 



horizontal posture the only horizontal line in the body. Her out- 
stretched hand comes level with the man's hip, where his apron 
begins, and touches his hanging arm. Both are compact and scarcely 
aristocratic in build: she a comfortable matronly figure, and he 
perhaps a little younger. He wears the peaked wig which comes 
down low over his forehead and fits close to his cheeks. This 
head-covering has little in common with our notion o a wig, being 
in fact more like the close ribbed helmet of our knights. The 
woman's hair, severely stylized with a well-defined parting, reaches 
to her breast. The style of hairdressing that frames their round 
faces increases their martial appearance. Their expression is strik- 
ing: a collected, worthy, serious air, that one might call bourgeois 
in the strictest sense of the word bourgeois without being hum- 
drum or hard or narrow, bourgeois in the sense of being a con- 
scientious and responsible citizen. The upright standing figures 
inspire us with unlimited confidence; one can imagine such a pair 
as pillars of the constitution. 

This is quite a different family from our tenderly united group; 
there is nothing tender about these people. They belong to a second 
category, nearer the average and the center of things; whereas our 
family moves on the outskirts of society, along with the artists and 
the poets. Our name for this second pair is The Elders. 

I don't know what view they took of marriage. It is alleged that 
they were not very strict. I am not familiar with the law of ancient 
Egypt, and few details are accessible. The highly objective sculp- 
ture of those days strikes me as a completely comprehensive docu- 
ment for the Egyptian menage. Whether legally or no, monogamy 
must have played a decisive part; and if the statutes enacted that 
a woman was man's chattel, custom made this subservience a harm- 
less affair. This stone pair is monumental propaganda on behalf of 
monogamy. I have searched in vain for a like confirmation in 
European art of our more explicit ordinances. In the fifteenth and 
sixteenth centuries there are of course plenty of double portraits 

7 8 EGYPT 

which display, among other social practices, an exemplary relation 
between married couples; but our examples are less avowedly con- 
cerned with the closeness of the marriage-tie. The stiff-necked 
northern bourgeoisie admits of no doubt about an order of things 
in which man has the absolute mastery. For our part we can 
scarcely conceive how married people can have lived together on 
such terms. Doubtless it was easy enough, however; convention 
forbade too searching an inquiry. We are respectable citizens; that 
will do! In our northern countries marriage was a consequence of 
citizenship; in Egypt, on the contrary, one is inclined to believe 
that citizenship was simply a wider extension of the married state, 

A student, with whom we returned from Gizeh (where there is 
a sort of university), told us some remarkable facts about the status 
of women in Egypt today. Man has practically all the rights here. 
The student was a nice fellow who had learnt good French from 
the Jesuits. Naturally he regarded the English as sworn enemies; 
that is the regular rule. You find very few Anglophiles among the 
young people, unless they happen to have a father or an uncle 
in the government service, 

"Before we turn the English out, mind you," the student con- 
tinued, "we must set our own house in order and stop our own 
filthy habits. Above all we must raise the status of our women." 

Wasn't it merely a feminist movement, I asked. He laughed; 
very likely it was. That implied abolishing veils and introducing 
silk stockings. Such a movement turned women out of the harem 
and on to the streets. 

Babuschka indignantly assumed that men here can change their 
wives at a moment's notice, without reference to the authorities. 
Women can take nothing away but their jewelry: which explains 
why they wear it all, day and night, on every conceivable part of 
their persons. 

We talked about schools. The young man was of course an 
ardent devotee of compulsory education and believed that every- 

The Elders, Nefer-Hotep and Wife. (Limestone) 

Limestone Statue, V Dynasty. Lifesize Statue of Renofer II. 



thing would be achieved by the decline of illiteracy. Finally I in- 
quired about the number of divorces; it appeared that they are 
twenty times as common at home as they are in Egypt. That aston- 
ished the student. Long may it protect the rights of women! I 
was loth to rob him of that illusion. 


1 FIND a certain difficulty in approaching the piece dc resistance 
of the whole museum: those astonishing painted limestone figures 
of Rahotep and his wife Nofret in the middle of the second room. 
They date from the third or the beginning of the fourth dynasty, 
but they look brand new far newer than the other things we have 
admired, which for the most part are somewhat more recent. 
"New" is a word of many meanings. There is no doubt about their 
genuineness: perish the thought! Finding place and hieroglyphs are 
in perfect order. If I dared, I should be only too delighted to doubt 
the authenticity of their style. But as that is not permissible I must 
accept a new type which introduces a new note into the concert. 
Even the arrangement is unusual Man and wife in like sem- 
blance, found in the same tomb, both seated and both the same 
size, each separate from the other. Each figure has a stone to itself. 
The man is a royal prince, but utterly commonplace (like our 
princes), and sits in a compact and commonplace attitude. You 
would say he was an Egyptian country-cousin, invited to court 
for some festivity and awestruck in the presence of majesty. It 
makes him look like a porter: the momentary illusionism of the 
sculpture and the harsh cigar-colored coat of paint produce that 
effect. I say "coat of paint" advisedly. The brown stands out with 
intolerable hardness against the brilliant white seat. It is possible, 



of course, that the figure may look strange with the customary 
polychromy of early sculpture so well preserved; still we have no 
right to try stripping it. The man is just as naked as other men, 
wears an apron, and sits there in precisely the usual position. He 
seems even to be modeled in the usual manner; at any rate one 
has some difficulty in detecting here and there a tendency to over- 
modeling, to which one might attribute the fatal impression. 
Nevertheless he has hardly anything in common with the other 
male figures; he might belong to another world altogether. The 
same is true of the woman, the most remarkable female figure in 
the Museum, although her general attitude conforms to the regu- 
lar type. She looks like a woman of today. If our family group 
sometimes reminds us of Corot, we are, so to speak, indulging in a 
metaphorical feeling and are not concerned with literal facts. 
This woman never puts us in mind of the lyricism of French 
painters, with its power to unbalance our sense of reality; she is a 
living figure of the present day. We saw her counterpart yester- 
day in the ballroom at Shepheard's Hotel: the wife of X, the 
famous Paris banker. Mrs. Coolman has something of her too; and 
so has Frau Behn. She is what one calls a lady, as opposed to a 
woman; she has the slight chilly sneer of these over-worldly cos- 
mopolitan beings who have style and nothing else. In their "style" 
I include all expensive and luxurious tricks, even a certain 
wit, which one only discovers after all sorts of tentatives. She is 
well modeled, I fancy. One feels that her body beneath her dress 
is by no means unshapely. In that she has the advantage over Mrs. 
Coolman. She has in fact more in common with the oriental genre 
of Frau Behn. She knows what can be done with it, if it were 
worth her while. It never is worth her while. She is certainly the 
nastiest creature that was ever at Shepheard's; but the disinclina- 
tion for any disturbance makes her a model wife. 

The color has a good deal to do with it. The flesh is pale cafe 
au lait f a trifle curdled; the thick coat betokens the artificial adorn- 

8 2 EGYPT 

ment of the skin. The gay, provocative ornament at the neck and 
in her raven tresses plays up to it. Inlaid crystal eyes a marvel of 
technique, by the way heighten the impudent effect. A new sort of 
wax-dummy, one thinks. 

The professors maintain that this is the best preserved piece of 
early sculpture in existence. If our family and the other things 
looked like this originally, let us thank God that their color has 
not survived in such perfection. But that they did look thus, as a 
general rule, I decline to believe. Our family never looked like 
this. The inlaid eyes alone would have given them a totally differ- 
ent expression. This detail in itself constitutes an impassable barrier 
between this group and most others. Artificial eyes do occur, but 
they are never the rule. It is manifest that the progress of natural- 
ism is immensely favored by this trick. Every contrast of material 
impedes the unity of the rhythm. 

The considerations of polychromy point in the same direction. 
At all events, neither the Havana-tint of the prince nor the curdled 
complexion of his consort can be recognized with certainty in other 
statues. Doubtless the colors were always livelier in tone than the 
extant remains, but they were not so obtrusive. The objects which 
I have examined in Cairo as carefully as possible do not suggest 
that the make-up of this show-piece was absolutely normal 

Evidently the savants are not conscious of the importunities of this 
color-scheme. They are delighted at the perfect preservation and 
concentrate their whole attention on that alone. To them the ugli- 
ness is a consequence of faithful imitation of nature, and in their 
opinion admits of no discussion. That is what they were like; 
we must leave it at that. They leave it at that all the more willingly 
because even they too have noticed how like these figures are the 
people of our own day. It is quite natural to regard Mrs. Coolman 
and Frau Behn as anything but exceptional, as normal types of the 
present day, in fact or at any rate normal types of globe-trotters. 


Whether this applies equally well to the ancient Egyptians is not 
yet proven. 

The problem would delight precisians. Is this show-piece the 
normal thing, or must we recognize it in countless other master- 
pieces which lack the finishing touch of inlaid eyes and are undis- 
turbed by any garish naturalism? That is the question. On the one 
hand, an exceptional piece of a highly specialized type; on the 
other hand, many pieces which, in spite of manifold differences, 
combine into a single formal creation. Assuredly it is no private 
whim that makes us call the Ti or the Ranofer, the Zoser or the 
diorite statue beautiful. This beauty is as much a solid fact as 
Mozart's harmony, the structure of Shakespeare's plays, or the sus- 
taining power of Dante's or Goethe's verses; and it may be recog- 
nized with the help of these and other values created by man. 
To doubt that these values, as revealed by esthetics, are interrelated 
is to doubt beauty itself. At closer range, early Egyptian sculpture 
acquires its value by comparison with that of Greece and other 
peoples, with all masterpieces in the same genre. This, and not 
Rahotep and his wife, is the norm. Let us grant that most pieces, 
since their color has faded, are no longer in a condition which 
we can call complete. This is a question for the learned; to us it 
is of comparatively little interest. Is the beauty of all those pieces 
less evident on that account? No historical considerations can pre- 
vent us from taking the things as they are and basing our judg- 
ments on them, for they were made to supply, not the require- 
ments of this or that science, but man's need for beauty; and it 
must not be forgotten that our real object was to use this need as a 
means of widening the historian's outlook. That completeness 
is a tangible affair which in reality aims not so much at perfecting 
as at establishing a scale of value. This is how we should regard 
not only Egyptian sculpture, but Egypt as a whole; and not only 
Egypt, but the world as a whole: as it is, or in other words, as it 


strikes our synthetic intelligence, not as it was or might be. We can 
grasp what is visible with our eyes alone. 

Thus we are justified in disregarding a coat of paint which is not 
there, and which to return again to our show-piece for the mo- 
mentis liable to hinder and estrange our taste. Thus the matter 
is solved, and we can leave Rahotep and his wife under their glass- 
case. Still the question, once raised, goes on tickling us : what about 
that paint? We are too closely involved with these people now to be 
able to disregard anything that concerns them. Babuschka is always 
hammering away at it. She disputes with all the Doctors on the 
score of the authenticity of the Rahotep family and maintains that 
they have been touched up; then she shows me the remains of the 
beautiful reliefs which were in the same tomb at Medum and are 
now in the Museum. Because the reliefs are in bad condition she 
considers the untouched surface of the two figures as suspicious. I 
am afraid there isn't much to be said for this ingenious theory. The 
poor preservation of the reliefs proves nothing, since the two statues 
were naturally found in a special chamber, and when this was 
opened in 1871 it was apparently intact. It seems impossible to 
test it now. There still remains the remarkable difference between 
the floor on which their feet rest and the other parts. The floor 
is free from the gleaming white which covers everything else, 
and its color appears to date from long ago. A little piece has 
peeled off Madame Rahotep's knee, and there too a quieter color 
shows through. Changes of color in otherwise intact sculpture are 
not uncommon. The scribe in the hall of Chefren, and his counter- 
part (supposed to represent the same man), are disfigured by a 
rim of verdigris round the eyes which is certainly a later develop- 
ment. Likewise the enameled surface of the flesh-color in the second 
piece hardly looks original. 

It is a difficult matter, in any case, to imagine an elaborate color- 
scheme for any sculpture, and especially for this. One day, as we 
discovered some scanty vestiges of colored pattern on the dress of 


the woman in our Family, our first feeling was one of perplexity 
rather than pleasure. We came to see, however, that the remains 
of color had a certain charm and with their help we succeeded 
in clothing the figures without spoiling their beauty; it was an 
experiment, one may say, in which the lack of material evidence 
left plenty of play to the imagination in its attempt to supply the 
figures with clothes. But even on this occasion we notice a real and 
unmistakable difference between the texture and color of our 
group and that of Rahotep. The color must have been richer and 
more mobile and the layer of paint much less thick. There was no 
crude naturalism about our Family. 

The supposition that this crudity was general is contradicted 
by the Egyptians' respect for laws which they can never have dis- 
obeyed, or their sculpture would never have reached the height we 
know. In painting we speak of plastic effect without thinking of 
sculpture, and mean to imply the painter's ability to convert a flat 
surface into space. But as soon as the painter begins to take the 
idea of plasticity literally the spatial magic disappears and paint- 
ing becomes a banal imitation of another art. In the same way we 
can talk of the flatness of good sculpture when it converts objects 
created in space into reliefs, and prize the pictorial play of light 
without thinking of painting. The ancient Egyptians discovered 
how to effect these changes. They taught the sculptor compactness, 
the fundamental condition of sculpture; and they practised this art 
in its entirety and brought it to the height of perfection. Can we 
suppose that so inventive a people offered perfection with one hand 
and with the other deprived the finished product of its finality? 
That is what we must suppose if we regard as typical the sort of 
painting found on those two overpraised show-pieces. It is credible, 
of course; what is not? One can imagine a clumsy sculptor touch- 
ing up a fresco; and the same thing might happen if production 
were in the hands of a few artists with a vision of their own, who 
subsequently left their works to a society which did as it pleased 


with them. Such a thing has happened in Europe, and may be 
happening today. Michelangelo has been painted over and Rem- 
brandt daubed about, and mosaics have been covered with plaster 
and plaster with paper. And who knows what a modern Maecenas 
with a taste for painting mightn't do with his Cezannes and 
Renoirs, were he not restrained by his respect for their market- 
value? In all these cases art and the rabble are distinct in kind; 
and the one is exposed to the incivility of the other. This hypothesis 
does not apply to ancient Egypt; you may find discrepancies among 
its productions, but its artists were not isolated individuals. You 
cannot accuse this art of being grossly inconsequent. The setting 
may not be to our taste; but the Egyptians liked it; that is to say, 
it answered to their rhythm. Chess has the same rules at all times 
and in all places, The make-up of the princely pair, if transferred to 
the reliefs at Sakkara, would not interfere with the real effect of 
those admirable decorations. Just as well-preserved traces of color, 
there and elsewhere, are dependent on the orderly combination of 
painting and relief, in which the graphic aspect of the relief plays 
the leading part, so we may be sure the sculptor of statues in the 
round took precedence of the painter. Color provided the com- 
plementary accompaniment. That need not exclude lively colors; 
and we must get used to the idea at once. But painting can never 
have made a caricature of the sculptor's work and turned art into 
naturalism. The painter too must have obeyed a canon of laws. 
Perhaps we shall approximate to the truth if we give the paint- 
ing the role of the libretto in an opera. We must not, of course, 
think of Richard Wagner, but rather of The Magic Flute. We are 
hardly doing the Egyptians too much honor by transferring to their 
sculpture such a delicate web of words and music. They found an 
ideal medium in the white limestone which absorbed the color; 
it served their purpose as well as the adoption of oil-technique 
served modern painting. It is hard to differentiate adequately be- 
tween the artistic activities of this period. 


And what about Rahotep and his wife? The only explanation 
remaining is to attribute their peculiarities to the particular desires 
of the man who ordered them to be made; among these desires 
we must include the use of artificial eyes. These extremely costly 
eyes are of crystal with silver points for the pupils. Perhaps they 
were fashionable in a certain privileged class; at all events they 
cramped the plastic effect and put special difficulties in the way 
of the painter, whose business it was to prevent their seeming like 
foreign bodies. Less naturalistic glass eyes were also in use. 

There is something abnormal to me about the way in which the 
married pair are fashioned out of separate blocks with no con- 
nection between them. Why are they not together? Was the man 
originally alone and was the woman added later? Was she sub- 
stituted for another during the prince's lifetime? There is no dis- 
coverable resemblance between her and the wife of the prince on 
the reliefs; but the condition of these reliefs and the conventions 
of all relief-sculpture prevent our applying this test. 

Possibly Rahotep and his cold-hearted wife belonged to a special 
class of Egyptians about whom we know less than we know about 
the rest of these stone people. This is the most probable hypothesis; 
it enlarges our ideas about the social structure of ancient Egypt, 
which seemed to us so easy to compass. Alongside our "Family" 
and "The Elders" this disunited couple forms a third category 
which never lacks in any cultivated society, and least of all in one 
where princes are to be found. The representation, to us only 
too convincing in its naturalism, corresponds with our idea that 
we have here a nightmare-vignette of modern marriage. 


INVOLUNTARILY one gets more and more involved in the web. 
We were at Abusir. We climbed the fallen pyramid of Neferer- 
kere, which dates from the fifth dynasty, and had a beautiful view 
from the top; after that we scrambled about among the remains 
of the temple of Sahure and Nehuserre, which Borchardt has exca- 
vated. Black basalt slabs with white limestone walls resting on a 
black basalt plinth. The walls were painted and we can imagine the 
effect. Then there are palm-columns: the two best-preserved ex- 
amples stand in the hall of Chefren at the museum, round shafts 
with high palm-leaf capitals. The allusion to the natural prototype 
is unmistakable; and when I was told about such columns in 
Europe, I disliked the idea and thought of Arab rubbish. Frightful 
garish imitations, with which European architects of Egyptian halls 
do homage to the genius loci, did their bit. The palm-column is 
better in practice than in theory* The leaf turns to stone, the trunk 
to column; and the stone-mason effaces every uncomfortable recol- 
lection of nature with his tool. He places the eight sharp-pointed 
leaves of the capital close together and obtains even surfaces with 
ribbed ornament. The leaves bend over above and form a sort of 
crown. Out of this the abacus rises to support the architrave; the 
abacus is carved in one piece with the capital, and is the one part 
which is not quite satisfactory, to our way of thinking. The capital 



finishes at the bottom in a very simple and beautiful way with a 
band of slightly convex rings; and its connection with the shaft is 
perfectly convincing. The material adopted for the shafts was fine 
granite of various colors in particular a striking red. How wonder- 
ful it must have looked against the black basalt! 

As a counterpart at the entrance to the first hall of the museum 
they have set up the two columns from the somewhat later temple 
of Unar, the last king of the fifth dynasty. The ribs of the palm- 
branches are here suppressed and the branch has become a leaf. 
Only the outlines and the beautiful veining in the center remain: 
a very happy simplification. Another remarkable type of column 
appears in the temple of Sahure: the reed-column, a type which 
survives in various forms to the latest period. The shaft consists 
of several I believe eight stalks, which are not round but elliptical 
in section, with sharp angles where they intersect; these angles lie 
on the circumference of the circle and form the rounded shape. 
The bundle tapers at the base, making it appreciably thinner: an 
arrangement which at first disturbs us, so that we have some 
trouble in adjusting our minds to it. Our sense of the organic helps. 
It is wonderful how the mason helps himself to nature and how he 
restrains it. A discreet leaf -ornament at the foot indicates the growth 
of the bundle from a root and gives a reason for the taper. The 
capital is evolved out of a tulip-like flower, but the vigor of the 
style has made it capable of bearing a load. No naturalism awakes 
our skepticism and distorts the stone; if you saw a row of these 
columns side by side, the last sense of strangeness would disappear. 
Borchardt has traced the origin of all these columns to the flora 
of Egypt. The lotus is the mother of the reed-column. Is that the 
origin of the Greek column? It is an exciting question, enough to 
make one turn archeologist. It's a pity that they didn't exhibit 
the two columns in the temple of Sahure where they would have 
contributed to the enlivening of the other fragments. In the 
museum nobody notices them. 

9 o EGYPT 

At Sakkara Mr. Firth showed us his excavations of the remains 
of the temple of Zoser. Zoser was the first king of the third dynasty 
and at the beginning of the third millennium he caused the erec- 
tion of the first great stone building in the history of the world. 
The wise Imhotep was the architect: so runs the tradition. An in- 
scription has now been found which confirms it. This Imhotep was 
Zoser's physician, minister and architecta significant combination 
in this civilization and is perhaps the first artist with personal 
responsibilities. Only fragments of this temple have come to light, 
but they are exceedingly notable. Here too we find pieces of reed- 
columns which are still nearer the original type and, what is more, 
completely remote from naturalism. Actually a greater number of 
stalks are here gathered into the bundle. The most striking fact, 
and the one which we were least prepared to find here, was the 
fluted column anticipating the Greek. The fluting is executed 
with the utmost neatness and is already endowed with the special 
charm which we were inclined to associate only with Greek temples. 
How curious: five minutes ago we were discussing the possibility 
of an Egyptian origin for Greek architecture and recognizing the 
reed-column as an insoluble obstacle; and here was the answer. 
Borchardt would like to find a botanic origin for the fluted column 
too, and is in favor of parsley. He will have nothing to do with 
Greece; but appearances are against him. Parsley can stay in the 
garden; it is of no consequence, for once your mind is set on 
natural prototypes it is a short step to the cellular structure of the 
fluting. From these beginnings to Doric is no long course of de- 
velopment; and one cannot dispense with such processes, for any 
association that helps us to pick our way through the chaos of 
humanity is too dear to us. Fluted columns existed, then, two 
thousand five hundred years before Olympia and the Parthenon; 
and later, in the New Kingdom, plenty of Greeks came to the 
delta, so that no further connection is required. It is noteworthy 
that in the temple of Zoser the columns do not yet stand free, 


but are joined by a narrow neck to the facade. In this and many 
other details we may trace the previous wood-architecture, which of 
course lay still closer to plant-forms. The stone imitates wood, 
especially in the round logs used for ceilings and the like. None the 
less, we find no technical restrictions of any sort. They have already 
achieved the incomparable skill in stone-working which must have 
needed, one would say, the practice of centuries. 

We are thus approaching the start of the history of the giants. 
Mr. Firth takes these things with due caution and sucks his pipe. 
I should so much like to know a lot of things that neither Mr. 
Firth nor anybody else can tell me; and it is a great comfort, when 
one's fancy is about to break out, to catch sight of that dry ex- 
pression of his. It makes one think of a tracker. Mr. Firth shows 
us two beautifully modeled male feet, broken of? smooth. They 
are the remains of a seated figure, whose body has apparently 
disappeared. Not long ago the Zoser, which is now in the museum, 
was found here. That was a great' day for the tracker. All at once 
a man emerged from the heaps of sand and rubbish. Now Firth 
hopes to find the tomb of Imhotep the wise, which must be some- 
where quite close. Possibly we are standing on the very spot. 

I met Junker, who is digging at Gizeh. He too has no doubts 
about the connection between the fluted and the Doric column. 
He thinks that the fluted type is the direct consequence of the 
reed-type, if you take the cross-section into account and reverse 
the projecting ornament. He is quite right; now there is no need to 
be surprised any more at the simultaneous arrival of the two forms. 

The Zoser in the museum is not naked like Chefren and the 
others, but wears a thin garment which covers body and limbs and 
leaves only the hands free. At first I thought that was a sign of the 
early date and pointed to a series of conceptions which changed 
as men came to exalt the body in its nakedness; but it must 
actually be connected with cult-ceremonies which are independent 
of date. In any case the clothes do not imply an imperfect com- 


mand of anatomy; the head and the parts which the drapery hardly 
conceals are too definite for that. Neither can we say that the result 
is less dignified. Perhaps more personal: which suits the strange 
impression created by the discovery of a personal and newly created 
architecture in the ruins of the temple of Zoser. Perhaps it is 
simply imagination. A personal atmosphere surrounds the statue 
of Zoser; again we have an unmistakable type. His face is not at 
all handsome, with its prominent jaw and projecting lips; and it 
seems even more strongly characterized than Chefren himself. Sel- 
dom, moreover, do we see so clearly as here the strap which fas- 
tened the artificial beard symbolic of royal majesty. By wrapping 
him up they thought to conceal the king's humanity from mortal 
gaze. In representing the king thus, did the sculptor conceive of 
his model as a god? The difference between man and mythical 
dignity can hardly have escaped him. At all events, it does not 
escape us; though the difference does not diminish the impression, 
but rather enhances and confirms it, as though we were able by its 
means to gaze through to the real seat of majesty. The artist was 
not inspired by any desire for ceremony. The light garment may 
have been ornamental, but it dispenses with the arts of costume 
and acts as an artistic device of the sculptor's to embrace and 
ennoble the pathos of the forms. This mode of treating drapery was 
to lead in Greece, in a later and lesser age, to a game of agile 
charm. The Greeks never achieved a non-decorative expression of 
human dignity. 

The face is grievously damaged; the eyes are broken away, and 
the nose is smashed. Only the ears remain, for they are saved by 
being embedded in the royal headdress. They are not the peculiar 
mussel-shells that man carries on his head; but parts of his face, 
a compact, inseparable organ, modeled as though with a stroke of 
the brush, and of a reality bordering on the miraculous. We im- 
agined that only our art, with its pictorial preoccupations, pos- 
sessed the secret of such modeling. For the sake of this ear alone 


one almost feels inclined to give Zoser precedence over all the other 
royal statues. 

Firth has just sent to the museum still another sculpture found 
in his temple, the pair of heads carved out of one piece of granite, 
which appear to have rested on a wall perhaps the boundary- wall. 
They do not suit either Zoser's ear or the fluted columns, but rather 
have some of the harsh pride of our medieval knights. That too 
they can do in the early dynasties; what, indeed, can they not? In 
the hall at the museum stands the remarkable catafalque of Osiris 
with the falcon on the body and the four falcons at the head and 
feet. There is a medieval note about this catafalque as well. Egyp- 
tologists assign it to the twentieth dynasty or even later. Dr. Ebert, 
who has lately come to live at the convent, believes it to be quite 
early and thinks the inscription was added afterwards. The falcon 
of Chefren is similar in style, and the whole work has a bewitched 
look of naive mysticism that one scarcely associates with a late 
period. Already we have had surprising experiences with dates here. 
The different interpretations vary by the trifling amount of one or 
two thousand years. Egyptian stylistic criticism is still in the cradle. 

Zoser is the oldest royal statue in the hall of Chefren, but not 
by a long way the oldest in the museum. A case in the prehistoric 
room upstairs contains an earlier piece on a smaller scale: the seated 
king Chasechem made of a dark green stone resembling basalt. 
Exactly half the face survives, enough for a profile. This king is 
clothed also; he wears the mantle with a collar, covering the 
breast perfectly simple though as unmistakable as ever and the 
tall king's headdress. The representation is not in the least degree 
primitive; its conscious simplification is suggestive rather of arch- 
aism. The edge of the headdress over the ear is carved with the 
greatest possible delicacy and with an obvious relish for the sharp 
arabesque, which is of a type reintroduced at a later period. 
Archaic and archaistic go hand in hand in Egypt, and the differ- 
ence between them is far less crude than in European antiquity. 


The only clear indication of an early period lies in the figure-draw- 
ings, apparently of vanquished enemies, scratched on the base of the 
simple throne. Here we are indubitably on ancient ground. King 
Chasechem belonged to the so-called second dynasty, of which we 
know about as much as we know of the inhabitants of the moon. 
With Chasechem we mount into the fourth millennium. In front 
of this work one can guess that stone-sculpture was preceded by 
woodcarving; though it is by no means certainly established. 
Chasechem must already be a member of a long series. Opposite 
him in the case is a crouching figure in red granite, which is also 
said to portray a legendary king. Finally we have a really primitive 
figure, though this too is unquestionably thought out in terms of 
stone. The figures in the earliest Romanesque portals have the same 
clumsy look. The learned maintain that this unknown king belongs 
to the same second dynasty as the carefully chiselled Chasechem, 
who looks at least a thousand years younger. When and where did 
the change occur? How did the clumsy image first become living 
stone? As soon as the dynasties are correctly accounted for we 
shall already be a step nearer the interesting moment. Thus Chase- 
chem might perhaps say: "The first proper sculpture was made in 
my grandfather's time." But of course every one has said that about 
himself. One must become an archeologist. 


1 HEY are digging at the pyramids at Sakkara, in Upper Egypt, 
everywhere. It is the chic thing for American millionaires to dig 
in the desert, and every great European power supports colonies of 
investigators. The results go to the museum, and you can keep 
what is left over. It's all in order. If only they would excavate 
with a little system and do the most important things first. It would 
be all the easier since the whole country is more or less plotted 
out for the convenience of tourists by means of the stars in Baede- 
ker. We have already reached the burning question: "Which is the 
more important Zoser or Tutankhamen (whom we call Tutchen 
for short) ?" They ought first to concentrate all their attention on 
the pyramids of Gizeh and excavate before anything else the 
temples belonging to the pyramid of Cheops. Judging by the gate- 
way of Chefren, which sheltered the diorite statue, the temple of 
the great pyramid might be expected to produce works of at least 
equal importance. We know the site; it lies under the Bedouin 
village, and the excavations would entail the dispossession of the 
natives, which is an expensive undertaking, but not unsurmount- 
ably so. 

Babuschka forbade further discussion. She was shocked at the 
idea of emptying the village and confined her share in the con- 
versation to the remark that it would be a disgrace. I reminded her 


9 6 EGYPT 

that such expropriations were undertaken by railways and other 
praiseworthy institutions and must not be regarded in too senti- 
mental a light., seeing that they were inevitable occurrences. In 
addition the victims often turned the circumstances to their own 
advantage. An American would take every possible precaution 
to indemnify them adequately. 

Her opposition grew. There was a little red house in the village 
which you could see from our hill This poor little red house, as 
insignificant as may be, and in any case a mere spot of color at 
sunset, seemed more important to her than any research. Even the 
idea that the house might shelter a work as important as the Zoser 
failed to appeal to her. She persisted that it would be a disgrace. 
Finally, as I saw she was simply arguing for the sake of argument, 
I lost my temper and went to the extreme length of maintaining 
that it would be a good thing if they diverted the Nile and ex- 
cavated Cairo if there was any chance of finding a temple of the 
Old Kingdom with palm and reed-columns. The columns must 
of course be quite intact. Thereupon she twitted me with national- 
ism and declared that I wanted to restore the Prussian monarchy. 
Her logic takes singular turns at times, 

Her remarks apply not only to excavations, of course, but also to 
the excavators. Perhaps they matter more; in which case there is 
something to be said for Babuschka. If people can make nothing 
of the finds, then they have no right to touch the little red house. 
Do Egyptologists rifle tombs or do they discover things? Mr, 
Coolman and Herr Behn won't let any diorite statue put it across 
them. Jean, lay the table in the desert! Even if 99 per cent of the 
human race were like that which is hardly the case the question 
need never arise. Even if there were only a hundred Egyptologists, 
and they alone had some reasonable notions about diorite, it would 
still be justifiable to make away with the little red house. Up and 
at 'em, even if the whole world's against you! Long live fanaticism! 

Rahotep and Nofret. (Limestone) 


A hundred people are all you can count on, when it comes to 
excavating. Even a hundred is probably too many. 

Is that reasonable, though? Does it lead to fanaticism? There 
have been fanatics Champollion, for instance, who discovered the 
key to the hieroglyphs a hundred years ago. The first Frenchmen 
who dug here were fanatics; and so were the first Germans. The 
urbane instinct in our family, not history but art, drove them on. 
Even Mariette, who in the fifties put handcuffs on the greedy con- 
suls who were itching to finger and touch and who organized the 
government excavations even he was a fanatic too. He brought 
the main things together, and in his own lifetime the museum he 
founded changed a great deal. People now blame his methods for 
their scientific shortcomings, because he failed to note the finding- 
places with sufficient accuracy; but they forget what came out of 
this unsystematic method and what interests were at stake. What is 
the good of measuring and quibbling when the ground is on fire 
beneath your feet? Before you can arrange, you must first have 
something to arrange; and Mariette was determined to bring as 
much as possible together as quickly as possible, so as to provide 
something to work on. He had to cope with the appetite of his own 
compatriots and the indifference of the Egyptians. Eugenie wanted 
a finger in the pie and Ismail Pasha, always short of money, could 
never say no. Marietta's fanaticism was directed against Napoleon 
III and Ismail, and Egypt remained in Egypt. It was not such a 
simple matter; and neither time nor inclination were left for 
more exact investigations. 

None of the masters, real or self-styled, of modern Egypt have 
bothered their heads at all about the ancient monuments, except 
upon occasion to convert them into bakshish. The caliphs of today 
cling to such power as they can get these days and are much too 
honest and lazy to exchange it for the pomp and circumstance of 
the Pharaohs. The High Commissioner, who looks after their 
incomes and without whom the king would long since have been 


on the ground beside his little throne, is their Pharaoh. The more 
practical Egyptians regard the ruins as a good advertisement; but 
all without exception regard them as the foreigner's province 

Egypt swarms with plutocrats. Nowhere is there so abrupt a cleft 
between the upper and the lower orders, for there is no native 
middle class. Actually there is nothing between a millionaire and a 
beggar, unless you count the dragomans as a category by them- 
selves. The intervening ranks are all importations: Greeks, Syrians, 
Italians and Levantines. One often has the impression that the 
whole population wandered in only a moment or two ago. The 
rich have fine cars; and their indescribably voluminous and highly 
painted ladies, real Beckmann and Kleinschmidt types, buy their 
clothes in Paris. The display in the jewelers' windows sparkles 
like the Rue de la Paix. Paris means fashion. The great Paris firms 
have branches in the main streets and disgorge the most monstrous 
objects. All the caricatures of European industry are here. A su- 
preme jumble of incompatible things prevails in the villas and 
palaces: Arab, European, exotic and Parisian, all gaudy and a bit 
dirty, a real oriental gramophone-style. In Alexandria you can also 
find collections of French Impressionists; and the other day I 
was shown a faked Lenbach. One thing only you never find: the 
smallest morsel of real Egypt. A very old house near the Muski, 
with nice wooden shutters behind which you imagine houris lurk- 
ing, is full of Egyptian antiquities. They were collected during the 
last fifty years by a Swiss merchant who died the other day; and a 
pleasant Swabian housekeeper of his now hawks the things round 
for pretty good prices. In the well-to-do part by the Nile ancient 
Egypt is not considered smart; the nearest they get to it is a gilt 
bronze Osiris cast in Vienna and serving as an electric chandelier. 
The Pharaohs give their names to dives. Every village has its Tut- 
ankhamen-Bar; and in the brothel-quarter of Cairo near the fish 
market, where a nocturnal promenade for Babuschka's benefit cost 


me five pounds, there is a shadowy retreat called Chez Rameses. 
What is more curious is the complete absence of any trace of 
it among the more or less intellectual circles of the so-called patriots. 
Their prevailing idea is hatred of the English, whom they would 
like to turn out, along with all other Europeans, at the first possible 
moment. They often complain of the English, rather less often of 
the rest. But they are partial to none of us; and if it really came 
to the point, even the most cherished guests, among whom we may 
count ourselves, would have to pack their trunks. That must wait 
for a while, for the protectors are on the watch and the Fellaheen 
perhaps enjoy their indolence punctuated by an occasional massacre. 
The rich Egyptians support England, however; and the English, 
shrewd as ever, support them. But for the hated English, the ex- 
ploitation of the working-classes would be even more selfish and 
stupid. On the whole, the Nationalists produce a rather dour im- 
pression, and look as if they are no use except when very young, 
like the native wbmen. Anybody with connections here can easily 
make money, and then the heat makes him slack. The most flour- 
ishing industry is bakshish, the cadging of tips. 

It is not surprising that the English question eclipses all others. 
The protectors have a firm hand on the Nile in the Sudan and 
thousands of muscular fingers in the civil service. In every province 
there sits a magistrate who passes over everything that doesn't affect 
English interests with a friendly smile; refuses at any price to 
bother himself with what doesn't concern him; lets every visitor 
say what he pleases and then says the last word himself with an 
inscrutable smile. The standing theme of patriots in government 
positions is the difference between their emoluments and those of 
the magistrates, who are also paid by the State. 

Apart from this, the water-supply is the main topic of interest. 
There is enough water to turn every inch of desert into a green 
carpet, and such land will produce a turnover ten times its value. 
But it is not easy to obtain the necessary permission, for too much 

ioo EGYPT 

cotton must on no account be grown. The price of cotton is the 
factor on which all Egyptian politics depend. Everything else is 
what the Russians used to call nichevo, and which they call malesh 
here. Malesh disposes of every difficulty. There is one man, how- 
ever, who doesn't say malesh and who gives the English some hard 
nuts to crack: Zaghlul, an old man with the head of a fanatic. 
Downstairs at meal-times Dettenberg is his enthusiastic partisan; in 
addition, ninety per cent of the people back him up. If you give 
a cabman his address, he cheers, and his nags gallop of their own 
accord. Zaghlul can't be bought with any amount of bakshish, not 
even with an opportunist policy which might help his affairs along. 
He is a Cato of monumental single-mindedness, quite blind to 
any intellectual appeal that is not of immediate interest to his 
cause and as philistine as Bismarck. 

The single-mindedness of these patriots makes them neglect 
accessible means of propaganda which they might find in old monu- 
ments. It means nothing to them that what they consider strangers' 
business grew up in their country, and belongs to it as much as 
the Nile and the desert, and is part of the organism of Egypt, Are 
they Egyptians? They are untouched by that sense of the present 
in the past, by that mystery which overwhelms us foreigners like 
a personal experience. Modern and ancient Egypt have about as 
much in common as mosque and pyramid. Two worlds exist here 
together side by side; and the one the older, the primeval and 
worthiest to receive all honor the one to which we are indebted 
for the fashioning of a civilization of inestimable grandeur, is 
treated as an accidental mineralogical growth. Nay, even more 
indifferently than that; for if instead of a stately temple the earth 
hid coal or iron, no little red house would be safe from desecration, 
and their tackle would long ago have changed the face of the 
countryside. But that's quite another thing, they say; one can be 
a patriot without taking an interest in art. Really they are inter- 
ested in nothing but cotton; and the question arises as to whether 


people with such limited aims have any right to own a country. 
The dualism o ancient and modern Egypt strikes me as hardly less 
unnatural than the English regime. The difference between an 
Egyptian kaftan and the tartan kilt of the Scottish garrison is 
superficial: merely a species of artistic curiosity. 

At times the patriots make us feel that they cherish an invincible 
aversion for the things we adore. Simply because we adore them, 
they will not. An honest fanatic said to me quite frankly: "But 
for these things we should have fewer foreigners in Cairo; I should 
have no objection to shipping them all oflf to Europe." There was 
something in his tone that perplexed me. This fanatic was not 
prepared to sacrifice the little red house; but afterwards he proposed 
as a bargain to surrender Gizeh, Sakkara and the Cairo Museum 
in return for ten thousand popular schools. Naturally we were to 
provide the personnel of these schools along with the other equip- 
ment; so he didn't really want to be quit of Europe. I saw our 
chance and offered him all the masters and schoolbooks of the 
Prussian regime, and was even prepared to throw in a couple of 
thousand obsolete sergeant-majors and generals. The inconsistency 
escaped him, and he was obviously beaten. His fanaticism wore 
thin and turned into moral enthusiasm; I advised him to try Bol- 

Only among the people, if anywhere, are there some traces of 
the old order: among the Fellaheen and the Nubians, who look 
fantastically like the limestone-people now and then, and perhaps 
really are like them. Indefinable traces of the Arab, and, among the 
Copts, of Christianity remain untouched. Meyerhof, the eye- 
specialist and orientalist, has found receipts which go back to the 
Ptolemies and even earlier. In popular superstition you still catch 
reflections of the primeval belief in Osiris. When some years ago 
the royal mummies once hidden in the rock-caves of Der-el-bahri 
were shipped here from Luxor, processions of mourners formed 
on the river-banks and the people sang dirges. 

102 EGYPT 

Dreamy superstition can never reason; but if the Egyptians 
imagine that they can fill up the holes in their instinctive life by 
combating illiteracy they are about as wide of the mark as the 
prohibitionists in America. 

Champollion and his people did not rely on cold facts when 
they discovered the ancient world in Egypt, but pursued a dream 
which was distinguished from superstition by the possibility it 
contained of an organic extension of the sphere it affected. Mariette 
aimed at an Egypt for the Egyptians, a dream which those who 
have profited by it prefer to forget. The Egyptologists remain; it 
is questionable whether the savants of today have preserved enough 
of the spirit of the first pioneers. 

We fell in with a couple of native intellectuals quiet, sym- 
pathetic people who disbelieved in catchwords, even in the stand- 
ardized hatred of England, and who refused to accept Zaghlul. 
There seems to be a small self-contained group with the most laud- 
able intentions, but quite ineffectual; one could discuss anything 
with them. Only when we came to the pyramids of Gizeh did they 
fail to come up to scratch; at that they retired behind conversa- 
tional commonplaces. 

In Paris, where they have got everything, there is a literature 
dealing with modern Egypt as well. We read two o their novels 
with pleasure. One, the famous Goha, was recommended by Octave 
Mirbeau who rightly praises the truthfulness of the picture; it con- 
tains a thrilling scene where the superstitious idiot clasps the statue 
of Isis which he believes is alive and threatening him. The other 
novel, which I like almost better than Goha, is Mansour, by Bon- 
jean and Achmed Deif. The scene of both is laid in Cairo between 
the mosque and the harem, and both illustrate the life of Islam; 
but even if they contained what I am looking for, still they are 
hardly what one calls literature. 


PERHAPS there really is a beautiful statue of Cheops hiding under 
the little red house; or even it lies within the realms of possi- 
bility a whole row of Cheops statues. And if you swept the whole 
village away, a temple might come to light, even grander than 
the gateway of Chefren. Then we should have a new ruin, inviting 
our inspection and helping us to trace a step or two further the 
development of the column and finally solve the disputed problem 
of the fluting; and the museum would acquire a new object, or a 
whole row of new objects. As a matter of fact there would be no 
room for them in the magazine at Cairo; even as it is, the ground 
floor is completely full. There is such a superfluity of even the best 
things the works of the early dynasties that they treat the lime- 
stone like so much common stone. Few people guess how much 
there is in the six cases in the dark niches of the first room and in 
the cupboards in the great corridor, how much stands and hangs 
about in every nook and cranny. Fewer still stop at the case near 
the entrance, although they are in a good light, because the colossal 
statues distract their attention. In these cases there are small studies 
of movement taken from servants and workmen of the early period 
which weave a whole network of threads that bind their lives with 
ours. In the dim corridor between the colossal statues the net turns 

into an abandoned web. 


io 4 EGYPT 

The museum, or magazine, is a senseless building in the conceited 
style of government buildings in large European cities, better 
adapted for a bank or public-house. The instinct of the people who 
manage it is on a par with it. The only use they have made of the 
place is to stuff it as full as it will hold; they have done their best 
to obstruct intelligent criticism, which would give prominence to 
the best things, and to bar the way to any imaginative use of it. 
The only things that are worthily shown are the commonplace late 
pieces in the hall Upstairs, in the best light, the rooms are filled 
to suffocation with innumerable mummy-cases and mummies, along 
with every sort of ethnographical junk. There too is the great 
sensation: Tutankhamen in all his glory. "No photographing or 
drawing allowed here!" is written up in every known language; 
and the spectators hold their breath. They lap up the overladen 
luxury of the furniture and vessels of this late period as if it were 
pure manna; lick their lips over the gold of the state-bier with its 
red-tongued heads of beasts, a stage-property of the cheapest sort, 
over the bright inlay of the little chair, over the walking-sticks with 
human heads; and marvel at the senseless display of fantasy in 
alabaster, those pinnacles of tastelessness. Egypt did everything 
that Europe had to do all over again; creating immortal patterns in 
the arts and crafts, and also in the course of her long career touch- 
ing the lowest depths of decadence. Finally the time came when the 
inspiration of the pyramid-builders ran dry and the artists were left 
with only the virtuosity of their accomplished hands. By a freak of 
chance it was precisely this tomb of Tutankhamen that came to 
light with all its paraphernalia intact. These things, which, apart 
from their historical importance, were only fit to calm the vulgar- 
est discontent, ought to have been put away in the darkest room, 
or else exported to the Argentine: a better plan* since that is where 
they would be most appreciated. In its present state of arrangement 
the Cairo museum, though filled to satiety with the noblest works, 
only leads people astray. Those who look may certainly find the 


real values: or at any rate, some of them. A good part remains in- 
accessible even to the most diligent. But those who do not bring 
the right instinct with them go away empty, and imagine that in the 
solid gold Tutchen they have seen the crown of Egypt. 

If digging goes on, they will have to build a new museum. Rocke- 
feller has promised ten million dollars if the Egyptians will take 
it up. Ought they not really to decline it? Ought they not stop 
all excavations for the time being and to devote themselves to set- 
ting their ideas in order? I don't mean only their historical ideas; 
they have made wonderful progress in that direction these last few 
years, I mean their sense of value, by means of which Egypt may 
really help us. Oh, I know what to do with Rockefeller; nobody 
must refuse his generous offers. I can think of an Egyptian mu- 
seum of endless utility, and no further digging would be needed 
to supply it. There is more than enough already in the material 
stacked in Cairo. The new museum must be devoted to the Old 
Kingdom alone, and the works of this golden age must be so 
arranged in a special building that each single piece as well as the 
total effect may have the fullest scope: a museum with a couple 
of halls and a quantity of intimate little rooms of various sizes. 
The contents of many a cupboard now crammed thoughtlessly to 
the brim would be enough for a whole room. In the intimate atmos- 
phere the enchantment of Egypt would unfold before the spectator. 
Thus we should have a Tribuna for Egypt; the present museum 
would then do for the Middle and New Kingdoms. Instead of this 
they are now agitating in English circles for a Tutchen-Museum. 

I certainly have nothing to say against the further investigation 
of the soil of Egypt as long as the results are of more than purely 
scientific interest and profit. Is such a profitable outcome conceiv- 
able? Can Egypt help us? Unless you open out a heavy screen to 
keep off the sun, it will overwhelm you. One's good fortune in 
being here warms the old Adam and stirs up all the organs of 
perception. You come here for the sake of your kidneys and ex- 

io6 EGYPT 

perience a renewal of your whole activity. Round this private enjoy- 
ment grows the frame of an immense history. Assuredly it is no 
accident that here humanity discovered form. If Egyptian art towers 
heaven-high above us we still have our share of it as we have of the 
sun. It is our firmament. This fact is not to be imputed to an indif- 
ferent past. Superiority and inferiority are of no consequence along- 
side this spasmodic relationship. Besides the positive, which either 
blinds us or does not, there emerged here in the course of history 
the negative as well: everything that keeps man from reaching the 
heights., or staying there. In this negative we may find all the limita- 
tions of our own day, all our own inhibitions. In a drama, simpli- 
fied by its remoteness, we see unfolded the life history of art. That 
is something beyond connoisseurship and science. All the possible 
relations between man and art, of which we have experienced at 
home only a few shadowy evening scenes, are staged in this theater 
and fill it with excitement. It is interesting and profitable to -learn 
the moral of this piece. Whether we can recover some of these 
values for our own art I do not know. That is another matter; 
seeing that we are through with our Latin it is a question of some 
urgency, and though it is a delicate matter we must face up to it. 
The thought of Egypt becoming fashionable and inflaming Mr. 
Coolman and Herr Behn makes one's hair stand on end. 

Egypt must be brought nearer to us, not only because she was 
our mother long ago, but also because she contains things which 
come very close to our instincts and ought to come still closer. Is 
the shortening of the distance the best way to achieve this ideal 
Egyptology? Let there be no popularization, contradicting the 
serious pursuit of science; we desire of it nothing but a fanatically 
disinterested pursuit of an idea which creates a sense of values. This 
involves a clear demonstration of the difference between Zoser 
and Tutchen and the absolute partisanship for the better cause. If 
this is not the business of Egyptology, then Egyptology is no busi- 
ness o ours. As long as criticism passes as unscientific the advance is 


retarded even in science as well, and its uses are confined to illusory 
classifications and statistics without any relevance. This refusal 
to take sides leads to a falsification of values against which one 
must take every possible precaution. 

It is scarcely practicable, however, for a science inspired by the 
noblest convictions to divest itself of its terminology. The incor- 
poration of Egypt into the spiritual world of Europe requires other 
forces. Art is only advanced by artists: that is an axiom long since 
accepted. The great discoveries in the history of art, all its funda- 
mental principles upon which the concept of the nature of art 
reposes, were made by artists, by the artistic instincts of creative 
beings who devoted their proper gifts to this pursuit. They were 
concerned to give a practical turn to their discoveries. The history 
of the development of modern art follows logically upon the lucky 
experiments of painters. We must approach Egypt as the Renais- 
sance approached the antique, as Greece was approached in the 
days of Winckelmann and Goethe, as the Venetians and Dutch 
and Spaniards were approached in the great days of French paint- 
ing. The enthusiasm of the discoverer may be mistaken in many 
details, but the discovery was of imperishable importance in its 
power to inspire. Lessing rose above the Laocoon. Even in miser- 
able copies Goethe divined the gods of Greece. These pioneers 
would assuredly have been better of? had they had some arche- 
ological preparation; and had they possessed the works of Phidias 
and his predecessors the artists of that day would doubtless have 
been spared many tiresome detours. But the creative instinct of the 
finder matters more than what he finds. Winckelmann's tears of 
admiration before the Apollo Belvedere have not cleansed that 
unwholesome composition; but its melancholy has given Winckel- 
mann's work its catastrophic force which finally carried his ideas 
beyond his reach. Here too we may observe the transformations of 
art; the dreams of the idealists led to the healthy realism of the 
nineteenth century. 

io8 EGYPT 

Can a like development fall to the lot of the Pharaohs and their 
legacy? The importance of their work is never called in question; 
and the number of originals of the best period is at least tenfold 
compared with the remains of Greece. Where are their Winckel- 
mann and their Goethe? Will they come? 

Egypt came late upon the scene, with some archeological prep- 
aration, but deprived of many supports enjoyed by Greece: an 
auxiliary literature, in the first place. For us Egyptian poetry has 
only a historical interest. Even if the present scanty remains were 
multiplied we should still be faced with a blank wall. The products 
of the "Scribes" of the early dynasties may well play their part as 
forerunners of Semitic, and finally European, literature: that is 
apparently well established. All the same we cannot detect here 
such a spark as leapt to the later poetry of the north from Greek 
tragedy to say nothing of Homer. The Egyptians were evidently 
people whose eyes meant most to them and who could not 
invest their hieroglyphs with the vehemence of their plastic works. 
Hellenic influence among us was furthered by the Greek language, 
an instrument whose classic structure outshines all the temples of 
Greece. Then came Greek philosophy, which is the foundation of 
our own. That too, students believe, found its inspiration in Egypt, 
but the root lies too far from the fruit. Moreover the history of 
that glorious people gave Greek art its wings. Where can we stop ? 

The way to the Delta lies through Italy and Hellas; but these 
resting-places may obstruct us as much as they help us. For its in- 
spiration Europe looks neither to the right of seniority nor to that 
of beauty. Charm is what counts. If it works, nothing can stop 
the triumphal progress of Egypt. Will it work? 

The last great invasion of Europe came from Japan. The paint- 
ers who fell for Hokusai and his compatriots fifty or sixty years ago 
were not impelled by any general interest in an unknown people, 
but simply by their delight in the flat color and the drawing of the 
woodcut. The influence was not simply a vogue; for the fashion 


passed off and disappeared directly. To art, however, the contact 
proved of permanent use. Japan helped painters in a new direction 
and this led to a universal movement. Today, now that superiority 
of China over Japan has long been appreciated and the quality of 
those late Japanese woodcuts is no longer accepted unreservedly, 
the fruits of that invasion are none the less a part of the European 
tradition. When the history of art entered into serious relations with 
the Far East, painting had long since made its choice. In this case 
an archeology with a more discriminating sense of values would 
hardly have helped much. Round about 1870 a clarifying process 
was needed to enable painting to achieve fugitive effects, espe- 
cially of color. That need Japan supplied. 

There are no artists in Egypt. They alone could effect the union 
and transfuse the discovery into the blood of Europe. No artist 
could remain unmoved here. Is there passion enough? Our art is 
so sated with eclecticism that the expansion in all directions had 
made the body too thin. Not volatilization, but the very opposite, 
is what it needs now; and it will find it in the static character of 
Egyptian art. All architecture, be it only the servant of utilitarian 
needs, can learn something from the pyramids. They strike me as 
the locus dassicus of every modern structural idea and must 
in the long run supersede Greco-Roman models in general use, not 
from any desire for imitation, but as a spiritual exercise. It is not 
easy, however, to detect the precise spot where the spark will catch. 
Our sculpture, which ought to be particularly susceptible to charm, 
has hardly any practitioners left to guide it; and the decline in 
creative force has hit it hardest. Science alone is digging; possibly 
the Egyptologists are really the last heirs. 


FOR some days we have had Dr. Aller, a German doctor, living 
here. He is an extraordinarily thin and wiry man with blazing 
eyes; and he practices in a little town near Minyeh. He has been 
overdoing it, and is going back to Europe on leave. There are too 
many sick schwdnigel in Egypt. Schweinigel is the second word 
of Cologne dialect that he has used. The lady from Krostewitz 
won't listen to his stories; there is trouble enough in the world 
already, she thinks, and one can't deny it. We haven't come to 
listen to each patient's symptoms; at all events, not at mealtimes. 
Dr. Aller wants an outlet; I'm sure he doesn't talk in order to 
impress us with his knowledge. I don't believe his stories are ad- 
dressed to us in particular; I think I'd really better introduce him 
to Meyerhof . 

Dr. Meyerhof is our only near acquaintance here; and we quite 
often go and see him for a quarter of an hour in the afternoon. Be- 
tween two patients he looks in when we are talking to his sister 
in his little private room, and shows us a carpet of interesting weave 
or a Coptic stufl he has just acquired, or what not, talks about 
orientalia, Persian miniatures, or Damascus faience, of which he 
owns a collection of fragments. He has translated Arabic poems, 
is a light among the eye-specialists, and is worshipped by the Egyp- 
tians. I believe his practice as a doctor and his importance as an 



orientalist go hand in hand. Even Rohricht admires him; but his 
hobby prevents him from being a specialist. As soon as he comes 
into the back room he picks up something in his collection to show 
us, probably in order to give his own eyes a change. Then he goes 
back to his patients. 

Dr. Aller is somewhat wanting in this respect. Yesterday Joshua 
Dohn lectured him on the Old Kingdom the usual story. I noticed 
that Dr. Aller wasn't taking in a single syllable and was fast 
asleep with his eyes wide open. Only when Joshua Dohn in his 
poetic fashion referred to the Sphinx as the most sacred beast in 
all Egypt did he wake up and enquire where the beast came from. 
We thought he was making a stupendously silly joke, but his face 
was perfectly serious and displayed an almost anxious curiosity. 

"Sphinx!" said the lady from Krostewitz. "You know, that stone 
thing they're digging up at Gizeh." 

"Digging up?" His face was eager again. Was it possible that 
the man had never heard of the Sphinx? The lady from Kroste- 
witz looked at me, as much as to say: "What an oaf!" 

The sphinx at Gizeh, observed Joshua Dohn, is an Egyptian 
monument of the time of Chefren. 

"Oh, really?" said Dr. Aller, rubbing his fingers. He has a curi- 
ous habit of rubbing his fingers and blinking at the same time, 
which reminds me of a man I knew also a Cologne man, by 
the way who came from the Verdun front into the Cafe Josty 
and had lost his hearing. Aller sits there just as he did. If you touch 
him he comes to life at once and immediately starts off about tra- 
choma or bilharzia, as if he had just been talking about it when 
somebody interrupted him. The man at Josty 's was just the same. 
Meyerhof has been fighting trachoma, the eye plague, for a gen- 
eration. Ninety per cent of the children are infected. 

"You don't say so!" said the lady from Krostewitz; and wanted 
to know if it was dangerous. 

Dr. Aller blinked. First it attacks the conjunctiva, then the 

ii2 EGYPT 

cornea gets spotty, and then it's all up. It hasn't got much to do 
with the climate. Dirt is the chief trouble; and only hospital- 
treatment is much good there. If you leave the schwcinigd at 
home which means, in the streetyou're worse off than when 
you started. 

The lady from Krostewitz objected to the dirt on the first day. 
Did we remember what she'd said? Her instinct made her feel 
it at once. Her instinct is very susceptible that way; we now had a 
proof of it. 

"You ought to know something about Egyptian syphilis," said 
Dr, Aller, rubbing his fingers. "I don't mean common or garden 
syphilis which you relieve with a little ointment and a couple of 
injections; no, poor brutes!" 

"Oh!" said Joshua Dohn, raising his eyebrows; and even the 
priest at the end of the table held up his paw to silence him. 

"Particularly the hereditary sort," Dr. Aller went on. "The 
schwdnigel think nothing of it. The hereditary disease is as com- 
mon with them as the primary is with us. The disease is no longer 
spread in the usual way. Imagine grandmother, mother, and child. 
Now you must picture to yourselves the tertiary conditions for a 

The lady from Krostewitz pictured these conditions so well that 
she felt obliged to leave the room. Her husband, the hippo-collector 
with rosy cheeks, followed her. 

Dr. Aller fidgetted and blinked his red eyelids. The connection 
between the flight of the Krostewitzers and his own announce- 
ments escaped him. Joshua Dohn opened his mouth several times, 
but shut it again without saying anything. Mixed feelings over- 
came him, and Aller got on to bilharzia. Even if you got rid of 
everything else -there would still be bilharzia, the bladder-worm. 
You get it by paddling barefoot in the Nile. It eats into the flesh, 
works its way through the tissues into sensitive places and gnaws 
at sixty per cent of the population. There are filtering-stations in 

Door Piece. V Dynasty. 


Cairo and one or two other big places. The schweinigel don't care 
for filtered water, however; they find it lacks pep, and whenever 
they get a chance they go down to the Nile with their black asses* 
skins. It's a frightful job to teach them not to do it. They under- 
stand the Nile! Besides, you can't pipe water to every hut. 

Finally he added a little appendix on the vogue for cocaine and 
morphia, a passion of morbid frequency. It finished off what the 
other plagues had left. The smuggling in this stuff was something 

The Cologne doctor had lived with people, had to get away but 
wasn't yet free. My acquaintance at Josty's used to cut out comic 
faces to distract his mind from the thunder of gunfire and sat there 
without utterance. Dr. Aller had to deal with an unnaturally noise- 
less process. It slid, crept, glided along; and he had to talk in 
order to drown the quiet. Often you would have said he wasn't 
talking to our company at all, with Joshua Dohn at its head, but to 
people under the table. The Cologne dialect makes sentimentality 
impossible. And the schweinigel didn't take it too tragically either, 
but died like flies and multiplied even quicker. The population 
has more than doubled in the last thirty years, but there's no guar- 
anteeing its quality. 

Dettenberg considered on the other hand that people who mul- 
tiply so in spite of bad conditions are capable of doing without the 
English and wanted to hand over bilharzia and company to Zagh- 
lul whom he visualizes as the savior of Egypt. Dr. Aller disclaimed 
all knowledge of politics and hadn't yet formed any opinion about 
ZaghluL Nor did he know anything about the Cairo museum, and 
when Joshua Dohn mentioned the importance of Zoser he asked 
if he was a doctor. He was quite unmoved when we told him that 
he was one of the better sort. A living doctor, to his mind, was 
better for the schweinigel than a dead king. 

Our Egyptians are as obscure to him as his bilharzia is to us. I 
wanted to find the temple of Cheops and he the trachoma-bacillus. 

ii4 EGYPT 

If we had the trachoma-germ the cure could be better handled, 
although a little problem would always remain. 

"It's a shame!" said Babuschka all of a sudden in one of her 
spontaneous moods, forgetting where she was and that nobody 
knew what she meant. Dr. Aller was explaining to Dettenberg 
about ankylostoma, the worm in the bowels. Sixty per cent, you 
must put it down for that. 

I found Babuschka at Meyerhofs, asking him questions. He con- 
firmed Aller's statements and showed her a sixteenth century 
Arab lantern. The form was still older. In Alexandria there was 
one from the tomb of the prophets. Trachoma was curable if you 
attacked it in time. Often you had to remove the eye in order to 
save the patient. 

We told Dr. Aller about Rockefeller's ten millions and the possi- 
bility that the State would refuse them. If the man doesn't push 
off at once, hell go crazy. His scheme for fighting bilharzia would 
cost a hundred million dollars, according to him, if you tried it on 
a small scale first; but once you had got ten millions the rest would 
find themselves. You would have to devote part to the preparation 
of films, which would afterwards be of educational use in Egypt, 
No hut without a bilharzia-film. Only pictures tell a story properly, 
as Rockefeller himself would see. I must go with him to Rocke- 
feller. He himself doesn't want a penny of the money, not even the 
price of the fare. He will submit the exact details to me as soon as 

Dettenberg has another plan. Rockefeller must give Zaghlul the 
ten millions, for he is the only man who knows what the country 
wants. Above all Egypt must be freed of the English. Ten millions 
won't cover that, of course, but they would make a nice little con- 
tribution towards expenses, England is responsible for the whole 
mischief and no regulations will do any good until this canker is 

Aller is a tiresome person. Although I never encouraged him at 


all he goes on as i the ten millions for his experiments were al- 
ready in his pocket, and now there's this business of Dettenberg's 
on top of it. It was as impenetrable to him as the Sphinx and the 
dead king. His tendency to cling to easy ideas worked feverishly 
to dispose of the new foreign bodies. He rubbed his hands and 
blinked his eyelids. Dettenberg elaborated his attacks on England 
and exercised his nationalistic impulses unrestrained by any social 
instinct. Aller didn't know much about the English. As to syphilis 
the soldiers in the garrison counted only as consumers and in a race 
with greater powers of natural resistance reenforced by military drill 
the percentage remained insignificant. English doctors were weak 
at diagnosis and better at prescriptions. One had called trachoma 
a vascular disease. They drank too much, but were otherwise decent 

You might have interpreted Aller's disinclination for political 
problems as anarchist dialectic making fun of the bourgeois; but 
nothing would have been wider of the mark. The ceterum censeo 
of the Anglophobe shattered his amiable remoteness. How could 
the expulsion of the English help in the fight against bilharzia? 
He asked in all honesty. 

That, said Dettenberg, must be left to the Egyptians to decide. 

Aller opened his blazing eyes: "Those schweinigel?" 

These superficial terms were not of the slightest assistance, re- 
joined Dettenberg with dignity. 

Very well: Aller confirmed it with all possible decision. There 
was a tendency to septic conditions inherent in their blood, which 
made the whole business harder. In the south it was incomparably 
easier; the Sudanese can be turned into excellent hospital-orderlies. 

Dettenberg objected to the one-sided tone of the discussion. It 
wasn't only a question of sick and healthy. It would be more esti- 
mable to distinguish them as free men or slaves. Ninety per cent 
of the population backed Zaghlul. 

Joshua Dohn confirmed the popularity of the tribune, but his 


notions left much to be desired. In a discourse on the Egyptian 
mysteries he had made some unpleasant remarks: a demagogue, he 

In the afternoon I found Aller and our priest on the school-porch. 
The paw was waving. The value of science was so little questioned 
by the accredited servants of the church that Catholic zeal must 
claim credit for the first illuminating interpretations of early history. 
God did not approve of lazy people who lost themselves in idle 
wonder, and no small concentration of all our spiritual powers was 
needed to forge sufficient weapons against those frightful scourges 
of the Egyptian people. He would not think it extravagant, how- 
ever, to earmark some of Rockefeller's millions for the universally 
neglected missionary enterprises in Upper Egypt. 


WE have Erman's History of Literature in our book-box. It 
contains the Exhortations of a Prophet and the Contest of the 
Weary Man with his own Soul, two remarkable papyrus docu- 
ments from a dark period. When the sixth dynasty came to an end 
about 2300, a tornado must have broken over Upper Egypt and 
wellnigh destroyed the land. The peaceful background behind the 
statues of the early kings and the quiet limestone groups, which 
permit us to imagine an ideal of domesticity, was suddenly shat- 
tered and replaced by a very different setting which also appeals 
to the experienced European. Suddenly the king's divinity ceases. 
His images are broken and his temples are laid low. Respect for 
antiquity is reversed; the marvelous order that seemed to need no 
bridle is turned upside down, and the golden age is over. The 
prophet and the weary man do not bemoan an enemy who has 
burst in from without to hold the land in subjection. That would 
not have surprised us; for the quiet reliefs, so unconcerned with 
military precautions, might have led us to expect it. The catas- 
trophe surpasses all uncertainty. The enemy came from within; 
the tornado was social. 

Egypt has anticipated us in everything, even revolutions; and 
this one no doubt was fraught with all the usual consequences. The 
numerous details in both writings indicate the tremendous collapse 



o the social structure, particularly the earlier distinction between 
rich and poor. An allusion to the French Revolution would be mis- 
leading; the tornado raged against not one but all existing institu- 
tions. It seems as if we must imagine a sort of red terror like that 
which ushered in the Bolshevik regime. Not only special rights 
were cancelled, but every right; there were no more laws. Rape and 
plunder prevailed; the rich went begging and the poor lay on 
silken pillows. "The men of yesterday'* were no more. Enemies 
had crept in and arrogance reigned supreme. Brother against 
brother, father against son; murder was on every hand and the 
Nile flowed with blood. 

Many mutilations of earlier statues date from this period; from 
their desolate look we can imagine the frenzy of the revolutionary. 
No image of the old order must remain. The tornado must have 
been an orgy of destruction, and can hardly be explained as an 
emancipation of the great noble families from the power of the 
king the usual account of the movement accepted by authority. It 
throws a shadow over the past. 

The long spaces of time with which we reckon Egyptian history 
incline us to make out that the national temper was equable, an 
idea which is supported by the indolence of the present population. 
The tone of early Egyptian art contradicts it; the driving power 
which produced the masterpieces of the Old Kingdom must have 
been of an exceptional order. No art that rises above mere orna- 
ment thrives on a slow pulse; and the saying that associates repose 
with the Muses cannot be called profound. Naturally work stops 
when the workshop is set on fire; but the repose of the works 
which date from the early dynasties do not point to any lethargy 
of the instincts. Art is transformation. People who dream of a 
golden age never have it, could not have it even if such paradisaic 
circumstances were credible on earth. To evoke such an idea, ob- 
stacles must keep the creator on the move. I do not say: bad luck to 
him! The creator is always lucky. But he must be firmly in touch 


with the relative to be able to turn it into the absolute. Movement 
and emotion go with it movement which keeps watch, steels the 
senses and sinews, and goads on the easily wounded sensibility. In 
early Egyptian art humanity reacted to every nuance of the sensitive 
life and was thus perilous and imperilled. We cannot imagine it 
otherwise if we take it all in all. How could that art touch our most 
secret emotions unless germs of our uncertain conditions were bound 
up with its creative powers? The one alas, or thank God! goes 
with the other. Much more surprising than this revolution, of which 
we know little and can only divine from its attendant circum- 
stances, is the art about which we can know everything. If the 
spirituality and independence we ascribe to Egyptian art is a real 
fact and not a meaningless phrase, we must take into consideration 
the possibility of revolution and its inevitable assumptions. 

The hour of trouble and trial passed by. After a while how 
long we cannot be sure peace returned. Several dynasties came 
and went in three restless centuries and were hard put to it to 
hold up their heads. With the eleventh begins the so-called Middle 
Kingdom, and in the twelfth the security of the Old Kingdom is 
approximately restored. The second flowering of art sets in. Of 
the intervening period we know little. Reflections of barbaric con- 
ditions are plainly traceable in the burnt clay statue of a seated king, 
painted black with a red crown and a white robe, in the corridor 
at the museum. It is a robust figure without proportions, repre- 
senting a king of the eleventh dynasty. It has no longer any of the 
old nobility and as yet none of the new. 

The art of this kingdom that rose from the ruins of the Old 
Kingdom is a rebirth. A certain number of masterpieces have been 
placed, or rather pitchforked, into the third room. They deserve 
a better fate. Ten lifesize seated figures of Sesostris I. surround a 
somewhat desolate funeral vault of the same period; they resemble 
each other very closely. The desire to rival the old seated figures is 
unmistakable, and indeed successful, so far as their academic eclec- 

120 EGYPT 

ticism will permit. But their calculating look dispels the old en- 
chantment, and they are not truly statuesque; their bodies have no 
compelling weight. You take them for husks of statues and forget 
that they are made of stone. The cold white of the almost unpainted 
limestone strengthens this impression. Here, where the sculptor 
has to some extent failed, you miss the completing hand of the 
painter; color would have added movement, or at least a sem- 
blance of movement. In no detail can they bear comparison with 
earlier works. The ears are not organic growths, but ornamental 
shells, conceived in line like the graceful decoration on the flat 
side of the throne. Everything is nice and neat, in the academic 
taste. Some one I know said the other day that we should linger 
over these if the old things didn't exist. Possibly: I don't know. 
They would still have charm; even two thousand years later Egyp- 
tian sculpture has at times an undeniable charm. The most com- 
monplace Italian ditty of the eighteenth century or even of the 
nineteenth is pleasant to the ear; and even belated survivals of 
Watteau's school have something of his light fantastic color. With- 
out the top notes, however, art would be a mere dance without 
spiritual import. We sacrifice too much sensibility to substitutes 
which are "almost as good" and endure the routine of the successor 
out of respect for the predecessor. The old people were never 
academic. That is remarkable enough, since there appear to have 
been many inducements towards academic naturalism, if not to- 
wards academic stylization. The human being is always submerged 
in the sculptor; there are not many works so distinctive as the 
Zoser. The great Mykerinos is much more a craftsman's job, and 
so too, I think, is the Chefren. But the difference lies chiefly in 
the hardness of the material and is concerned with the smoothness 
of the detail; it hardly touches the main question the feeling for 
solidity. Perhaps the Old Kingdom had merely a better academic 
tradition; it all comes to the same thing in the end. 
The six pillar-statues with crossed arms, representing the same 


Sesostris as Osiris, along the two main walls of the same room, are 
far more to our taste; and one sees why immediately. The costume 
of Osiris helps to enclose them, and the use of the pillar-figures 
as architectural accessories practically turns, them into reliefs. The 
decorative replaces the static. Their architectural function has still 
the freshness of an unhackneyed device and the fluency of the line 
compensates for the lack of plastic amplitude. But the lack is there 
right enough. 

The expansion of the Middle Kingdom into the realm of orna- 
ment became the regular mode of escape open to the survivors of 
a great tradition in every period, and here displayed for the first 
time the perils of the smooth and easy way. Its renaissance provided 
every facility in this direction. It was assisted by the pious caution 
with which the advance took place, and the virtuous resolve to neg- 
lect no opportunity of taking deeper root. There were artists who 
resisted this dangerous temptation and refused to be enslaved by 
architecture: indeed their number was considerable, for the mani- 
fold activities of the age insured it. They gained in surface-extent 
what they lost in depth. Miniature sculpture flourished; the cases 
in the third room are full of attractive specimens. This is the mo- 
ment when the bibelot was invented: the product of a taste which 
aimed at largeness of style even in small matters and understood 
the secret properties of materials. The artist extended the bound- 
aries of his originality and discovered the connoisseur. I all these 
miniature sculptures in every sort of material also served the cult 
of the dead, one imagines the tomb must have been a positive 
show-case. Works on a larger scale which can hold their own 
beside the older things are unknown to me. 

The seated Amenemhet III., in sandstone, opposite the dark 
priest in the corridor, has a certain charm: an agreeable young 
man, upon whom your eye rests willingly enough, without paying 
much attention. He is the kind of man who adorns a drawing- 
room, moves faultlessly and never says anything tactless. There is 



something well-turned-out in his nakedness; yet there is nothing 
that encourages you to attempt more intimate relations with him. 
If you did, your partiality would hardly survive the test; and one 
day you would discover some trivial detaila malformed ear, for 
instance that you could never get over as long as you lived and 
that would prevent your ever asking him to the house again. The 
Middle Kingdom discovered the middle course, an eminently prac- 
ticable social style. Its mentality is comparable with that of the 
Quattrocento. You seldom take the things very seriously and they 
get smaller in the mind's eye. The lifesize Queen Nefret in the 
corridor, with her ringlets, has all the attractiveness of miniature 
sculpture. Her statues would be still prettier if you put them in 
show-cases. Even the great granite sphinxes are nice and manage- 
able; the only thing you must not do is to think of the Sphinx of 

In modifying current artistic usages they displayed some inven- 
tiveness. Besides miniature sculpture, which led to a class by itself, 
colossal sculpture enjoyed a great vogue. As early as Sesostris L they 
started giving royal statues an importance which had never been 
theirs before; and this increase in scale had widespread conse- 
quences. Two of these gigantic versions of the first Sesostris stand 
in the vestibule of the museum; they are like the pillar-figures in 
the third room, only much larger. One is in granite, and the other 
is painted limestone; they are stylized forms that cry out for the 
architecture for which they were destined. This agreeable rela- 
tion with architecture was the decisive step which threatened the 
independence of sculpture. We know the importance of the diorite 
statues in the gateway of Chefren. Their dignity was not dependent 
on any closer connection with the building. They sat like gods in 
their granite house, and the smooth blocks echoed their exaltation. 
Only the complete abstraction of art symbolized the holiness of the 
king. The innovations testify eloquently, as only recognized facts 
may, to the change in the autocracy. In the Middle Kingdom the 


kings ruled well or ill, conquered, repressed, delivered, possessed 
great power, caused themselves to be worshipped; but that spon- 
taneous dignity and sanctity never returned. They clothed them- 
selves in this or that title; the hieroglyphs grew longer and longer. 
Architecture and sculpture combined with every sort of decorative 
activity to do them honor; and thus the king himself learned the 
art of becoming decorative. 

The two colossal statues of Sesostris show the king as Osiris 
and are therefore clothed once more. This dress was as ritual as the 
mantle of Chasechem and Zoser, the so-called festal mantle. It is 
no accident that the most brilliant period of the Old Kingdom has 
left us so many statues of kings either naked or wearing only 
the apron, whereas in the Middle Kingdom the Osiris-statue takes 
the upper hand. It was characteristic of this art to use raiment as a 
means towards the creation of a style; they were far too intelligent 
not to be aware of their weak points, and the cult afforded them 
an adequate means of escape. A new scheme was discovered: the 
crouching figure, whose whole body from the neck to the tips of 
the toes was hidden in a cubic mass of garments. This discovery, 
at once ingenious and radical, was acceptable to the cult, for the 
great plain clothed surfaces made room for -countless hieroglyphs. 
It amounted practically to a coffining of the body. 

Being now concerned merely with the head as it emerged from 
its wrappings, the artist was relieved of many difficulties, but for- 
feited the ultimate object of his representation. In this draped 
kneeling figure, which lasted down to the latest period, the authori- 
ties see a reflection of the geometry of the pyramid-builders; it 
seems to me much more like a convenient cubism diametrically 
opposed to the instincts of an earlier age. The great epoch of geo- 
metric building displays an extremely sharp distinction between 
building and sculpture. The best naked statues date from the same 
period as the pyramids. If the coffin-principle of the kneeling figure 
had been generalized and systematized, the whole art of Egypt 

124 EGYPT 

would soon have run to coffin-making. Fortunately that was not the 
case. The draped kneeling type is one of the many notions of the 
Middle Kingdom, typical of the cheapening of artistic inquiry in 
those days, but not universally applicable. Its happiest results are 
obtained on a small scale; in one of the cases in the third room 
there is a small kneeling figure in striped alabaster that I should 
like to pocket. 

In the Middle Kingdom one's predatory instincts are often 
aroused. We don't often visit the upstairs rooms at the museum; 
but when we do, Babuschka makes straight for the light room 
where the jewelry is kept, and that keeps us fully occupied, as a 
rule, for the rest of the morning. The show-cases of the Middle 
Kingdom are very seductive. In times gone by they too had costly 
things of every sort: the famous gold head of Horus, from the sixth 
dynasty, for instance, and even In the first dynasty they wore gold 
and polished stones. Very soon came a taste for necklaces of gold 
and small colored plaques. Nefret had herself painted thus with an 
ornamental band in her hair. These simple but in no way crude 
objects are accessories, as far as we are concerned: our interest is 
not really aroused till we get to the Middle Kingdom. You try 
the things on in your imagination and forget where they came 
from thousands of years ago. The people who made them were 
specialists in female luxury and carried on a highly complicated 
craft. They had all the quips and cranks of the cosmetic art at 
their fingers' ends and gave themselves all the airs of a Parisienne 
born and bred. At this period they took to making chains of round 
polished semi-precious stones in numberless variety. Such were 
those of Princess Khnumuit, fashioned of tiny gold and turquoise- 
colored reels of hairbreadth fineness; while for high festivals there 
were heavy diadems inlaid with stones and almost baroque in their 
ornamental form. These inlays go into the smallest detail, like 
enamels, and their precision surpasses anything that ever came 
from Limoges. The Egyptians knew nothing of true enamel and 

TASTE 125 

would not have relished it; it would have seemed too pictorial to 
their goldsmiths, whose rich palette is composed entirely of minute 
stones polished and shaped, one would say, under the microscope. 
The drawing is always perfectly sharp. Often, in the small "stom- 
achers" and elsewhere you frequently find extremely complicated 
figure subjects in filigree work as well. The question we asked 
ourselves before the pyramids again arises, on a diminutive scale: 
how did they manage it with the means at their disposal? 

That is not the chief point; for, as we know, the development 
of technical resources has never done craftsmanship any good has 
rather proved its undoing. Here, as everywhere, material restric- 
tions provide precisely the springboard from which they take off 
to achieve perfection. The astonishing thing really is this need for 
display, this emotion behind the things, the mobility of an instinct 
which is still active in many of our desires today. The style of the 
large diadem and similar pieces, an abstract baroque ornament, 
holds its ground but its influence is not everywhere decisive. Prin- 
cess Khnumuit was not particularly addicted to it; and this per- 
sonal freedom of give and take is just what anticipates our own 
habits. The prettiest headdress is a loose net of gold filigree threads 
set with tiny blue and red star-shaped flowers. Six larger stars, also 
in color on gold, separate the network at equal intervals. The 
crosses are familiar from early Christian art, but prettier; one must 
remember for a moment that Christianity came later. You can see 
the gay little head under this open crown. In the Nineties Lalique 
made just such another net for a fair friend who had all Paris at 
her feet. The taste of the Egyptians was more exacting. This 
crown is hardly a trinket; it seems rather to be a spontaneous no- 
tion that came into the artist's head one fine day, and has nothing 
to do with the taste of the moment. He might have been a painter 
who turned jeweler for the nonce. Its unpretentious air is very 
much to our taste; it seems to have no "style" and is therefore in 

126 EGYPT 

our own vein. No "style," but a personal charm, a happy accident 
of greater worth than any costly display. 

The baroque comes next; but it has none of the autocratic force 
of the real baroque. You might almost say that it shared our cher- 
ished liberty to play with easy rhythms and pass over into the 
imponderable. You can see the delicate stuffs these women wore, 
draped not in a baroque but rather in a Directoire fashion, leaving 
the limbs their full freedom; you can see the little chairs, with their 
straight lines, and the low stools in rare woods, with ivory feet or 
claws of neatly carved wood, and the gently curving day-beds in 
their boudoirs. You can complete their furniture from their pictures 
and the actual remains, improbable as it may seem: unmistakably 
Empire, purged of all imperial feeling, discreet and bourgeois. 
Napoleon was not here for nothing, though his borrowings touch 
only the outlines and the change is the significant thing. 

This Middle Kingdom too has something of ourselves and the 
signs increase and the dream-relation that binds us to our "Family" 
becomes almost tangible; you can very nearly establish ethnographi- 
cal contacts. With all allowances made it is hardly an exaggeration 
to compare this kingdom that arose out of a revolution with our 
own nineteenth century. No serious distortion of our instincts nor 
any very violent disciplining of our own preferences is required 
of us; we have merely to modify the form, to our own disadvan- 
tage. The Middle Kingdom listened to the intellect; it was a stren- 
uous, highly animated and eclectic age. Its taste reflects its perilous 
adventures, and a highly developed craftsmanship concealed its 
shallowness. We have compared the hieroglyphic inscriptions of the 
two epochs and noticed the same change. The monumentally of 
the old gravestones has completely vanished. The hawk and the 
other symbols on a stone of the early dynasties were the counter- 
parts of the Horus behind the head of Chefren. The people who 
carved it in stone had seen the sacred bird and the mystery guided 
their hand. The enlightened children of the revolution have lost 


their faith in the gods, but they recognized the beauty of the old 
ardor and their own enthusiasm was kindled. 

In the hall of the museum is the tip of a pyramid dating from 
the Middle Kingdom; it belonged to the pyramid of the third 
Amenemhet, I believe. The bibliophile is all agog. The ornamental 
script is disposed with consummate delicacy on the black granite 
triangle: not too much and not too little, an ideal tide-page. A new 
typographer joins William Morris, Ricketts and E. R. Weiss from 
the nineteenth century before Christ. The texts on the obelisks are 
just as good. Incidentally, the obelisk is an invention of the Middle 
Kingdom, and this sun-pencil carries on the geometry of earlier 
ages. The elegant, somewhat lonely product of this development is 
characteristic; if you wanted to symbolize the creative instincts of 
the Old and the Middle Kingdoms in an easily grasped formula 
you might well compare the pyramid and the obelisk. 

In the Middle Kingdom taste and technical ability reign supreme; 
and the restful certainty of this level of achievement invites com- 
parison with our own period. We must balance every tiny success 
against a heap of failure and derive our instant of delight from 
passing pleasures. Only when we admit to ourselves that few of us 
are ever right do we recognize similar symptoms in the Middle 
Kingdom. It would be wrong to assume that a more or less eclectic 
taste had it all its own way. Alongside the many skillful purveyors 
of luxury there were men with incomparably higher aspirations; 
this is probably true of builders, and certainly true of sculptors. 
They loved the old things, but their life was not drawn from them 
only; they aimed at spiritual progress along paths laid out by 
enthusiasm and creative will. Once again these men emphatically 
confirm the remarkable parallel between their age and ours. 

We know little about them; which is natural, for these anony- 
mous people who once had names disappear in the mass, from 
which, moreover, they were never differentiated by the isolation 
that distinguishes our masters. For long stretches they went hand in 

Head o Sesostris III. Middle Kingdom. 


watched and forced the visual impression upon the clay. Granite 
turns to wax, it seems, under the master's hand, yet remains a hard 
stone. Analysis results in a synthesis as hard as rock. 

There is something of Rodin in the modeling: the Rodin of the 
noblest portraits, not of the Balzac, the Rodin who left Donatello 
with his outline and who filled the outline with nervous force. The 
Sesostris head is greater, for the artist relied less on nerves alone; 
he thought in stone. When we use stone, we cannot get beyond 
simple reproduction; curiously enough, the comparison with Rodin 
does not detract from the Sesostris, for the thought bridges them 
naturally. It is not so firm a plank as that which united our "family" 
with Corot, though it comes closer to us. 

There are many good heads dating from the Middle Kingdom, 
and not only in the Cairo museum. I remember an equally expres- 
sive obsidian head. They did not often reach such heights, but even 
the transitional things captivate us. So much at this period is tran- 
sitional. In the corridor there is a fragment of a colossal granite 
statue, here oddly ascribed to the third dynasty, though actually 
dating from the Middle Kingdom at the earliest; it is a mighty 
head adorned with every sort of emblem, and set on mighty shoul- 
ders. Its expressiveness triumphs over the trophy-like splendor of 


W HEN I referred to it as a mountain in conversation with a 
Swiss the other day, he smiled, for the Mokattam is not much more 
than a hundred meters high. No Swiss can realize that the beauty 
of a mountain has as little to do with its height as the taste of a 
liver-sausage with its cubic contents, and that Cairo would suffer 
appreciably if the Mokattam were even so much as half as high as 
the Rigi. Only cigars dare be oversized. The Mokattam is a human 
mountain and belongs to the city. It is the back of the chair on 
which Cairo is seated; it fits the Nile and its islands and the sea 
of houses, and the pyramids in the distance might be its outposts. 
Similar heights accompany the whole valley far down into the 
South, and the proximity of this scenery has doubtless had as much 
share in the shaping of the Egyptian formal sense as Paris and the 
Seine have contributed to French art or Venice and the lagoons 
to the school of Titian. The mountains are the place where brigand- 
age and gluttony and boundless metaphysics thrive. In any case 
the Mokattam is high enough even to satisfy those climbers who 
must feel that their necks are endangered, as you will see by what 

At the very beginning we had learned to know it, during the 
growth of our passion for the pyramids and when we discovered 
that in the old days they had got the materials for the pyramids 



here. I fancy it was our first Sunday in Egypt. Old Rennebaum 
took us to the quarries. Inside the mountain where the rock 
was softest, and therefore most highly prized, the Egyptian hol- 
lowed out the stone; and hall-like rock-chambers of great extent 
came into being. Pillars were left standing to support the mass of 
stone, and round the pillars arch-shaped projections jutted out into 
space. These half-natural buildings have a fantastic swing about 
them; there is greatness in everything that the pyramid people 
touched. You can still see the beginnings of parallel workings, as 
though cut in butter, and the holes in which they put their lamps 
while they were at work. Afterwards you get a dazzling view of 
Cairo; at the most exquisite moment old Rennebaum declared 
that the world war was a monstrous shame from our point of view, 
and that if we hadn't been stabbed in the back we should have 
done them all in. 

We had often planned to repeat the expedition; but as old 
Rennebaum, who was an architect according to his own account, 
had buildings to look after, Dettenberg, the national economist, who 
had also been there and who professed to know the Mokattam like 
the inside of his own pocket, promised to be our guide. We must 
come to Meadi first, however, as he had to lunch there. From there 
he could show us a capital path. We were then going over the 
Citadel and I was more concerned with the Mokattam than with 
the way there, but I dare say he was right. 

Meadi is a freshly-baked, oasis-like colony of villas to the south of 
Cairo, mainly inhabited by English people. The trees grow there 
visibly. At the far end there is a branch of our convent in a beauti- 
ful garden. Thence you cut across towards the high ground. In 
front of us, in the distance, lay the Citadel with the mosque of 
Mohammed- Ali. When you look at the mosques not as architecture 
but merely as silhouettes, there is nothing to be said against them. 
But you must not let yourself start wanting to look at their in- 
teriors; they are only fit to be seen from afar. In the distance the 

i 3 2 EGYPT 

sun plays brilliantly with their domes and minarets in a way it 
could never manage with our more solid buildings. No Gothic 
filigree, no baroque could achieve quite this lyric ease. The Arabs 
did not so much build their mosques as improvise them in the 
empty air, just as they touched in their poetry without too much 
concern for regular construction. Distance is always the main thing, 
and a well-chosen site in which the mosque may float like a banner. 
Near at hand the gaudiness gets on your nerves and the details 
shout at you. You must not think of solid walls but of trembling 
lights; Cairo is full of dancing. 

Although the Mohammed-Ali belongs to our own day and was 
copied from an original at Constantinople, and is thus of small 
account among the learned, it is the loveliest of all. None has found 
a better site; it is the bouquet of the Mokattam. None the less it 
was a silly business, taking the train to Meadi to begin with, and 
then walking back for two hours; for half way there we were 
almost back in the city again and were still wandering about on 
level ground, and though we should be happy enough once we were 
up on top it was certainly too late for the quarries. Dettenberg 
went skipping away with his innamorata and had long since van- 
ished, and we couldn't guess where to find the way up the steep 
wall of stone. One must trust to instinct, the nice bookseller 
thought; and Dettenberg's friend the engineer was positive that 
the path would soon appear, because somebody had once described 
it to him, though that was certainly some years ago. It appeared 
right enough; that is to say, not the real path, but a way up which 
would doubtless take us there; and a young native who knew the 
path went on ahead. It was real climbing, such as I hadn't prac- 
ticed since my student days, and it told on one's knees, but it 
answered well enough. The engineer kept saying that the proper 
path was bound to appear soon, and the nice bookseller agreed. 
As he was a quiet, accurate man, who had succeeded in calling 
attention to German books in Cairo in quite a short space of time. 


I believed him. We kept stopping to rest; half way up, the view 
rewarded our efforts. The Mohammed-Ali no longer stood, but 
swayed in the sun. Its two tall thin alabaster minarets glistened, and 
so did the sweat on my forehead. 

When we reached the proper path it was unpleasant, for Babu- 
schka would imagine that because I can't look at the street from 
our balcony in Berlin I must be suffering from dizziness, and 
began to get nervous about it and started talking about it covertly 
to the others, even I think to the nice bookseller. I didn't feel 
very secure, but that was largely because I was vexed with Babu- 
schka. Even if you don't like looking from balconies down into 
the street the fact remains that you can put up with considerable 
discomforts in company. Social instincts play their part; alone I 
should have probably refused to tackle it. Besides, many's the time 
I have scrambled over the roof of a veranda at night to reach 
Klarchen's little porthole of a window, and once I even went up 
the Pilatus in the rack-railway, sitting by the window too; and 
there, as every one knows, you spend a good time swinging over 
an abyss. I managed it by talking hard to a man about Flaubert; 
we had had a longish correspondence on the subject and had finally 
made friends. In such situations everything depends on form and 
tenue* In seasickness it is exactly the same. On that occasion I know 
I talked very well about Flaubert, with a precision too often lack- 
ing in my conversation. In the same way I tried hard to formu- 
late my thoughts distinctly as I climbed the Mokattam, though 
this well-meant concentration was also at times upset by Babuschka. 
We talked about rhythm; and I asserted its superiority over all other 
intellectual and moral emotions. The subject had its charm, but 
was hardly concrete enough for this occasion. In the middle ages 
the Copts had cut this path in the rock; in dread of the Mahome- 
tans they lived in caves, in which you still find traces of their wor- 
ship; and they must have been as nimble as apes, for their stone 
steps are often scarcely wider than a medium-sized folio. On the 

134 EGYPT 

right you have the sun-warmed stone; and on the left the shimmer- 
ing ether. The abstract nature of the conversation allowed me at 
times to wonder suddenly what would happen if you couldn't go 
any farther and felt compelled to turn back. I smiled at the idea; 
and Babuschka, who was climbing in front of me and kept look- 
ing round far too often, smiled too. The conversation stopped, as 
it does when crabs are being eaten. Only the engineer, our guide, 
kept assuring us at regular intervals that the worst was now over 
and that the rest would be quite easy. Whereupon Babuschka gave 
him a meaning look; she realized that the remark was purely 
rhythmic and meant nothing at all. Each time I was pleased and 
nodded to him, while I tried to indicate to Babuschka that she'd 
better stop grumbling. 

Suddenly we heard the engineer's voice a long way off, as though 
he was sitting on the earth or on another mountain top. He had 
gone ahead with the young Berber and disappeared. We came to 
the place where the path broke off at a small hole in the rock. The 
opening was smaller than Klarchen's porthole. We had to get down 
through this hole, and the engineer had already done it. He stood 
a little way off, about two yards lower. The^young Berber stood 
beside him, picking his nose. 

"After this it's all quite easy!' the engineer shouted cheerfully. 
"We shall be up at the top in five minutes." 

I lay on my stomach to inspect. The hole was not the worst part. 
Beyond it you had to let yourself down about a yard in order to 
get at a tiny foothold far smaller than a folio, which you naturally 
couldn't see while letting yourself down, but had to grope about 
for rhythmically. A couple of steps by the rocky wall brought you 
to apparently solid ground. 

The nice bookseller went ahead, squeezed into the hole and 
emerged again. But he was smaller than I am, a head shorter at 
least, and could dispense with the stomach business. My girth made 
the first part of the process immeasurably harder, and lying on my 


stomach I failed to get my body through the hole. Then I lay on 
my back and pushed slowly forward, waving my legs in the air, 
and started fishing about. Everybody laughed. Babaschka grumbled. 
She couldn't see how people could laugh here. I saw it quite well, 
and so I gave it up, paddled back and crouched in the hole. I prefer 
to remain here, I remarked with some decision. There was less 
question of giddiness when by lying on your back you ceased 
to be aware of the yawning chasm. Only a recollection of what 
my biographer might do made me decide that in case I fell, it 
would be a pity if my last moments were comic. My rhythm, for- 
bade it. You can't conceive how idiotic it feels to grope about for 
a folio with your feet through a porthole. I had a nasty taste in 
my mouth as if I'd been mixing my drinks. 

"Go and leave me!" I said. "Go away!" I yelled at Babuschka, 
and at the same moment I felt the pitiableness of my situation. 
Besides, I should really have enjoyed being left alone. 

Of course I crawled through in the end. One always does. Even 
if you look like a tadpole and know it yes, even if you are con- 
demned to spend the rest of your life in a tadpole-like condition, 
you crawl through. It was easier than I anticipated and hardly 
lasted a minute. Babuschka took the obstacle like a chamois. 

Once clear, I turned indolently back and spat into the abyss. 
Stupidly enough, I'd left my monocle in the hole; instantly I ex- 
pressed my desire to retrieve it. Babuschka was beside herself, and 
the nice bookseller pointed out to me the craziness of the under- 
taking. The difficulties redoubled. Apparently the Copts helped 
themselves along with iron brackets which have disappeared in the 
course of time. The remains o one such bracket were visible. 
Luckily Babuschka came upon my spare monocle. Sulkily I gave in. 

The plateau of the Mokattam is extensive and at the end carries 
a ruined mosque. Rhythm returned. Finally Dettenberg came 
skipping up with his companion. They too had been in peril of 
their lives on several occasions and compared notes with us, which 

136 EGYPT 

heightened the rhythm. A cobra darted away into a crack in the 
rock. Our enthusiasm mounted. We were alone on the plateau and 
felt we were its masters. The outworks and caves on the slope lay 
below us. A spectrum was aflame over Cairo, and according to its 
own rhythm the great round red disc sank. In the distance the 
three great triangles stood out, like the tents of a general to guard 
him from the mist. When the cannon-shot at six gave the fasting 
people leave to eat, we could not refrain from doing the same, and 
divided up two oranges which I had in my pocket and which 
had remained comparatively intact 

At home in the evening we experienced an earthquake. Babusch- 
ka's framed pastels stood out from the walls for a moment like 
exaggeratedly stiff shirts in the wind. No disastrous consequences 


X HE three flowering-seasons of Egypt occur in her long history 
like oases in the desert. Bald intervals of vast extent, unexplored 
and, in the absence of monuments, hardly explorable, surround 
luxuriant and thickly populated epochs. The three that have been 
excavated may have been the extreme limits of achievement, but 
certainly indicate the main waves. Each of the three has its own 
spiritual nature and its own culture; but the convenient distinc- 
tions which are available in our epoch do not here obtain. There 
is no Gothic to succeed a Romanesque age, no Baroque to follow a 
Gothic; religious conservatism maintained a strictly permanent 
style. The plastic forms created under the early dynasties constantly 
recur. Not only do specific individual traits remain, such as survive 
through our style as well, but each epoch clings with varying suc- 
cess to the entire formal apparatus of the golden age. Architecture 
alone shows actual advances, since its requirements alter; yet that 
too is concerned to preserve the severe traditional scheme. Sculpture 
changes its structure only once in special and quite conscious cir- 
cumstances; it happened under Amenophis and did not last long. 
In the twentieth dynasty and even later they set to work as they 
had done in the Old Kingdom and remain comparatively un- 
affected by the development of experience. Just as only one river 
waters the land, so only one style runs through its art. Like the 


138 EGYPT 

Nile it bends many times and brings forward many new aspects, 
but throughout its whole course it is fundamentally the same. 
There is only one truly creative period: the first. Everything that 
follows is a renaissance. The first renaissance, that of the Middle 
Kingdom, may be described as a highly respectable activity which 
built many canals and enriched many fields to which insufficient 
attention had hitherto been paid. The diligent effort was rewarded 
by lucky accidents, but a remarkable level of achievement was not 
enough to conceal the weakening of the texture. The New King- 
dom is the renaissance of a renaissance; and the disadvantages of 
the immediately preceding period are intensified. Architecture 
blocks the whole foreground with gigantic structures. Pillar-statues 
grow to a monstrous size, and the mass-production of colossal 
figures in the temples vulgarizes craftsmanship. Architecture, which 
for us is the mother of sculpture, seems in Egypt to have become 
its murderess. It is no thanks to architecture if anything survived; 
rather it shows the power of resistance of the original germ. Some- 
thing did, as a fact, survive. For a surprisingly long time, Art held 
its own with severe losses it is true against the mass-drive of the 
New Kingdom. 

The waxing and waning of this mighty empire is not simply an 
interesting phenomenon in ancient history, but actually affords a 
new point of comparison with our own destiny. The Middle King- 
dom disintegrated and so perished; the differentiation affected the 
structure of the State, which led to a splitting up of its forces, and 
its whole culture. The Egypt of the twelfth dynasty always strikes 
me as a collection of perfectly legitimate instincts which, because 
they ruled without restraint, led only to a collapse. One might 
say that there were too many thinkers and poets and artists and 
amateurs and too few people with good tough bones. It was an 
artistic century. They devoted themselves to the perfection of the 
ego; and the refinement of the technique which they devoted to 
that end made their egotism a moral affair. Artists think about 


everything except what is necessary. Kings and princes wrangled 
with each other for so long that the boundaries of the land col- 
lapsed, and then came the bitter conclusion which was this time 
only to be expected. The enemy broke in and made an end of their 
game. It is not yet certain how we should regard the Hyksos who 
overran the country in the first third of the seventeenth century . 
B. a;- but it does not really matter much. In any case the foreign 
hordes are of less interest than the people they defeated, though 
they remained masters of Egypt for nearly a hundred years. The 
native king Ahmose, who climbed to the throne about 1580 B. c., 
was the first to cleanse the land, after a bloody conflict, and restore 
order* Ahmose founded the so-called eighteenth dynasty, far the 
most noteworthy in Egyptian history, since the whole people under- 
went a decisive change under that regime. Ahmose must have been 
a good general; he was the first ruler who led his host in person, a 
soldier king. The whole turn of affairs confirms it. What he needed 
was not ideas and tasteful trifles but a well-drilled army to drive 
the Hyksos back into Asia and quell the Nubian revolt. With his 
army the king finally subdued the old hereditary nobles and 
made himself sole ruler. It is not surprising that he refused to 
allow the means by which he achieved it to get out of his control. 
It was fundamental, and replaced the ideal elements of the Old 
Kingdom which had proved inadequate. The precautions taken 
by the head of the state maintained a thoroughly solid background. 
When it occurred to his underlings to doubt the grace of God, 
there were well-drilled soldiers ready to teach them better. The 
king in no wise neglected his divine halo: on the contrary. As soon 
as the eighteenth dynasty felt solid ground under its feet it started 
the greatest temple-building that the world has ever seen. Religion 
became one of the strongest publicity devices of the regime. The 
gigantic temples required a manifold array of priests; they sup- 
ported the throne but they also had an eye to their own interests, 
and soon attained to the most powerful position in the State, in 

140 EGYPT 

which they began to play a highly political and, as inevitably 
happens, a disastrous role. At the height of the New Kingdom they 
formed merely a second flexible army in the autocrat's hand. An 
official hierarchy developed along strongly militaristic lines. The 
historians still persist in emphasizing the completely unwarlike 
original disposition of the ancient Egyptians and it is easy to trace 
it in their art. In the New Kingdom a change occurs. The lord 
shares with the people his greed for glory. The Egyptians give up 
dreaming and reckon with iron facts. The lust for expansion drags 
them from their comfortable home. They batten on the respect of 
their vanquished enemies, whom they continue to regard as bar- 
barians, and revel in glory. Whether they sought to indulge this 
passion with native forces or mercenaries is of no concern to us. 
Urbane decorum turns into the swollen pride of Imperialism. 

The Middle Kingdom was a refinement of the Old. The New 
is, on the whole, the opposite. Even this coarsening process has its 
lucky moments; in the fourth room at the museum there are plenty 
of crude but expressive works, such as the scribe Amenothes, son 
of Hapu, the much reproduced figure with the three parallel folds 
on his chest. This crudeness affects the architect too at times, but 
as in sculpture, so also in architecture: there are notable exceptions. 
The difference in quality between the New and the Old Kingdom 
is not under discussion; the eighteenth dynasty wavers between 
coarseness and an excessive refinement which at times far sur- 
passes the tendencies of the Middle Kingdom, especially at the end 
of the eighteenth dynasty. About this moment an interesting episode 
occurs. We are in the first half of the fourteenth century B. c., when 
their warlike lusts had been satisfied, even sated, and a sensitive 
man came to the throne who longed for something more than 
martial glory and was sick of the vulgar display of publicity. 
Amenophis IV. set himself up as an apostle of truth. "Akhenaton, 
who lives by truth" was one of his titles. His truth was not incom- 
patible with beauty, for he did away with polytheism and sacred 


cattle, and identified himself with the one Aton, the sun, and was 
the first monotheist on earth. Since his novelty could find no setting 
in the ancient Thebes with its host of temples, he built his residence 
at El Amarna with the swiftness of wind. All his acts were like 

El Amarna was the only place we had experience of before we 
came here. Babuschka went mad over the finds in the Berlin 
museum: the graceful colored bust of the queen, still more the little 
head of Teje, and most of all the sculptor's studies; and like every 
lover of the arts in Berlin, I had long since kept on my writing- 
table a cast of the Amenophis head, which incidentally Borchardt 
now thinks is Tutchen. It didn't answer in the long run, as the 
plaster got dusty. There is no question about the things in Berlin 
being the pearls of El Amarna. They are still angry about it in 
Cairo, although everything has turned out for the best; it is really a 
matter for congratulation, for at least they have found a place 
worthy of them, where people can see them. In the magazine at 
Cairo they would be lost. 

Cairo has, however, got the other head from El Amarna, of which 
you have scarcely any idea in Berlin, unless it is that you overlook 
it among the abundance of more beautiful and pleasant things: 
it is the very antithesis of grace and refinement. It requires a certain 
effort, for this antithesis is anything but pleasant. It positively twists 
your guts. 

At the end of the corridor which runs past the four rooms stand 
two fragments of colossal statues of Amenophis which, apart from 
the marks of royal dignity and their dimensions, have almost noth- 
ing in common with earlier standing-figures, for their style departs 
from nature in the most wilful fashion. It is a baroque style, highly 
fantastic, yet familiar to us in spite of its extravagance; it lengthens 
and emaciates the faces, deprives them of their flesh, emphasizes 
the cheek-bones, slits the eyes, sharpens the lips and extracts a lively 
arabesque from the contour of the cheek between the chin and the 

142 EGYPT 

gigantic ear. The royal beard on the chin is of great length. The 
thin arms are crossed over a womanish breast. Below, an orna- 
mental belly curves out between the womanish flanks. Under the 
slit-like navel a very curious apron, carved in the round, girds the 
skinny lower frame. It is a crazy mannerism, reminding one a 
little of Botticelli, except that the gentle Sandro's pictures are com- 
paratively harmless. These effete faces make one think of a modern 
who was trying to convert Greco into sculptural form and got out 
of his depth. The style results in a grotesque caricature, but remains 
thoroughly consistent. When we remember the most recent artistic 
products of our own period it helps us to dismiss any idea of per- 
verse distortion. Incidentally such high treason would have led 
them not to the temple of Karnak, where these statues stood, but 
somewhere else altogether. What we have before us is officially 
authorized expressionism. 

These are the early works of the Amenophis period; the reliefs 
from El Amarna in the fourth room go much further. The king 
appears with a skull which outdistances every exotic macrocephalous 
freak. It is as though the whole gigantic royal headdress had turned 
into his head, and this head runs forward into a great long nose. 
The neck is like a retort. The outstretched arms, spindles with 
sacrificial vessels in the hands, are of quite different lengths and are 
attached not to the shoulders but to the retort. A frankly woman- 
ish breast seems confined within a corset and prolongs itself into 
the indescribable paunch. Oh, this paunch! Oh, that behind! The 
royal sit-upon occurs where other mortals have their backs, and 
with the paunch it forms a bulbous figure symmetrical in front 
and behind. The backside is not semicircular as usual, but some- 
what like a trembling wave on which you could play a flute but not 
sit. The figure stands on thin little legs without joints, and with 
club-feet appended. The royal family has the same anatomical 

Even these creations, whose involuntary absurdity would hardly 


be passed by the most independent of exhibitions in Paris or else- 
where, are treated by Egyptologists as works o high art, and no 
amount of change of manner invites them to make a qualitative 
comparison with earlier masterpieces. People enjoy the faithful 
intimacy of their reflections of family-life and overlook the trifling 
fact that though these royal personages may chat together and bask 
in the friendly rays of constant sunshine, they are not human 
beings at all. According to one theory the curious malformation 
is really a true reproduction of the form of Amenophis as nature 
made him. The honesty of the apostle of truth would not have 
tolerated any slurring over of bodily defects. In this context we 
may point for confirmation to curious miniature sculptures which 
do represent actual natural phenomena. One of the liveliest products 
of this kind is the small relic in the fourth room of a Princess of 
Punt, a dwarf with corkscrew limbs who amused the witty Queen 
Hatshepsut. The dealer Nahman in Cairo has a whole collection 
of these figures. With the help of the doctors they have determined 
the disease of poor Amenophis, a complicated name which I have 
forgotten. His wife and children and the whole court, and indeed 
all his underlings as well, must, then, have suffered from the same 
disease. This surpasses the legendary astigmatism of Greco. Per- 
haps Egyptologists labor under the same burden. 

Everything has already come to pass beneath the rays of Aton and 
everything recurs once more, even princes who play strange tricks 
with art instead of ruling. Egypt has no call to rejoice over this 
Akhenaton, who forgot the enemies outside in his passion for style, 
and let the country go to rack and ruin. He brought the eighteenth 
dynasty to an end, for only half-wits followed him on the throne. 
His son-in-law Tutankhamen was one of the last. Naturally the 
indignant priests made all speed to restore the gods Amenophis 
had cast down and he was persecuted. 

He was no Luther; and only a profane cynicism could think of 
turning him into a Christ. Objects for comparison lie nearer to 

144 EGYPT 

hand. The experiment resembles those playful quirks which char- 
acterize the artistic activities of our own day, though it contains 
a certain legitimate residue. The interesting aspect, to my mind, is 
his literary and artistic dilettantism. He celebrated the sun in poems 
which, if not among the peaks of the world's literature, are pretty 
enough; and his quickly built residence reminds us o Weimar, 
except that the Weimar of Karl August seems more old-fashioned 
and sedate. El Amarna is more like the Darmstadt of twenty years 
ago, when the young Grand Duke, for lack of something better 
to do, decided to patronize the arts and crafts. He summoned many 
artists; and they brought plenty of artistic notions with them, and 
built and carved and painted away until they had turned Darm- 
stadt into Darin-Athens. 

The symbolism of the helmet-skull and bulbous paunch cast a 
shadow over the little land, and the cheerful discoverer of the 
sun caused a flutter in official circles. Eminent court-dignitaries 
found themselves obliged to imitate the gestures of the artists, who 
now ruled the roost in place of soldiers or priests; and many an 
honest fist was clenched in private. Amenophis was more original 
and sat in the center of it all. Perhaps he set it in motion himself 
and was not merely carried along passively; he too, however, was 
content with a facade and lived his life in an artistic milieu. His 
reformation was art nouveau. 

We do not know what deeper influences the sun-cult may have 
had, apart from its mischievous consequences for the kingdom. Its 
effects on art are more evident. Among the artists were people of 
genius who refused to pander to the bulbous style, or only adopted 
it on festive occasions, and the king took a liberal and indulgent 
view of them. In the studio of the sculptor called Thutmosis they 
have found studies of startling vividness which have something of 
the Rodinesque quality of the great portraitists of the Middle 
Kingdom, and which are very much to our taste; and in the 
ominous El Amarna case In the Cairo museum you can also find 
female torsos of Hellenic beauty. The court-style did not achieve the 

Thutmosis III. New Kingdom. 

Amenothes, Son of Hapu. XVIII Dynasty. New Kingdom. 


final organization of error; and the exceptions allow us to look 
behind these outcrops and admire the ancient constantly renewed 
source. Many of the portraits of Tutankhamen even display, for all 
their decadence, the sensitive flexibility of the artists of El Amarna. 
The nineteenth dynasty promptly restored the world power which 
had crumbled away under the sun-king, and on the whole does not 
show much signs of sensibility. Impressiveness at all costs is the 
order of the day; and we are treated to an orgy of colossal sculp- 
ture. These are the things for which the Cairo Museum was built; 
they look well enough in the bank-building. The worst, by the way, 
are not the creations of Rameses, but date from the Middle King- 
dom, like the two in the vestibule which greet the visitor on his 
arrival. It cannot have been easy to find such pedestrian things in 
the Middle Kingdom. Rameses has "usurped" them: that is, carved 
his name on them. It is one of the easy-going habits of these later 
kings to appropriate in this simple fashion the statues of their 
predecessors. Rameses II. in particular was a persistent exponent of 
this practice; in his old age he must have suffered from a morbid 
hunger for stone, for he took indiscriminately whatever came to 
hand. Taken as a whole, it was heterogeneous enough. The two 
colossi of the king, right by the vestibule, are made of a fine brown 
stone and their effect is not so bad. Rameses appears as the god 
Ptah. These divine dresses are the counterparts of the various regi- 
mental uniforms affected by modern monarchs. The Ptah-outfit is 
particularly becoming. Without a crown, and wearing only a 
close-fitting piece of material on his head, Rameses stands in a 
compact attitude with both hands resting on his gigantic scepter. 
The natural marking of the brown stone paints long folds on the 
narrow garment and decorates it in a masterly fashion; a more 
elegant presentment is hardly to be imagined. 

There are also representations of a much higher order. Nearly 
thirty years ago I saw the great basalt Rameses at Turin and I 
remember with what enthusiasm I determined to visit Egypt that 
very same year. This Rameses seemed to me then a pinnacle of 

146 EGYPT 

achievement. We were in Turin, attending an international exhibi- 
tion of arts and crafts, prepared for quite other impressions. The 
greatness of this stone had nothing to do with its mass effect; it 
was due to a mysterious grace. Under the fine-ribbed garment you 
felt a young body of all-conquering charm. The charm surmounted 
the format, and the stone surmounted its Egyptianness. A youth, 
delicate and appealing, smiled proudly and confidently, smiled with 
the elegance of one who is complete master of the situation, to 
whom nothing in his own time, and even in the twentieth century, 
is unfamiliar: an urbane smile. Afterwards I went on to Florence 
and Rome. Rameses kept me company all the way, and his smile 
kept at bay the usual intoxication of the Quattrocento and Cinque- 
cento and exhorted me to aim at higher things. That was my first 
intimation: an incomprehensible survival of artistic power. In the 
maddest vortex of megalomaniac world-power, race always tells 
and wipes out everything proletarian. 

Nearly a thousand years later the pride of Berlin the "Green 
Head" came into existence, after the conquest of the kingdom by 
Alexander the Great, when the Ptolemies were enthroned in Egypt. 
Enthralled by this chiselled, polished, accurate objectiveness, you 
might ask whether the epoch that made such a work can be called 
decadent. In this tiny green slate head Egypt once more gathers 
up a brilliant heritage. Not only is it akin to the Rameses in Turin; 
you also fancy you can detect an echo of the earliest dynasties. 
However much we may insist that the progress in representational 
skill displayed in this little sculpture is an inadequate substitute 
for statuesque grandeur, naturalism is still restrained by the funda- 
mental Egyptian instinct for the volume of the head. Certain au- 
thorities hold that the green head is Greek, misled by the objective 
traits which are also common in late antiquity; but no Greek or 
Roman portrait ever achieved so rotund a solidity. The same fact 
alienates this head from Europe as distinguishes the drawings of 
Hamburg or Berlin classicists from Ingres: namely, provincialism. 


End of December. 

W E arrived here in one bound the day before yesterday, and are 
leaving Luxor until the return journey. The idea of finding a second 
Cairo, temples and history and all, when we'd scarcely got started 
on the first, frightened us, and we propose to rub along without 
art for a few days. 

I am not young enough for these experiences in the mass. You 
must take your time over Egypt, as you do on your first trip to 
Italy, even though your patience may eventually grow too short 
for much that Rome has to show. Now we are about to lay a 
foundation under a house which already is a sufficiently intricate 
structure. Anyhow we have torn ourselves away from Cairo. 

Here we are living in cool summer weather. We are not staying 
at the sumptuous Cataract but at the Grand Hotel, whose position 
relieved us of the necessity of making our choice depend on material 
considerations. There are people who prefer the view from the 
terrace of the Cataract* an opinion based not so much on the sur- 
roundings as on social prejudice and on a need for comfort. If you 
have one of the front rooms there you can see the cataract from your 
bed or your bath. It is not the genuine cataract, to be sure: far 
from it. That lies a couple of kilometers farther south and stands 
in the same relation to the hotel-cataract as nature to the movies. 
The Nile bends suddenly here and carries a lot of rocks in its bed, 



some of which have been grouped to please the guests. The Bastei 
in Saxon Switzerland boasts the same charms. Moreover, the 
Behns and their suite have just arrived at the Cataract. 

The food is at least as good at our place, I maintain, and is in- 
comparably better served. The other day a Swiss waiter at the 
Cataract suddenly poured Cumberland sauce all over Babuschka 
and hardly apologized. As we were guests there I couldn't tell 
the clumsy fool what I thought of him, and we had to behave as if 
we didn't mind a bit. Such a thing would be unthinkable at our 
hotel for the simple reason that apart from Franz, the maitre 
d'hotel, the whole stafi is Sudanese; and you would as soon expect 
a practiced eye-specialist to operate on a nose by mistake for an 
eye as catch one of these people missing their grip in handling a 
dish. They hover between the tables in the dining-room, and their 
serving has a hieratic dignity. We call the handsomest the Prince. 
He is as slim as a whip and has the graceful features of a youth 
of the Old Kingdom; and his long narrow hands would turn 
whatever he offered you into a tidbit even if the cook were not as 
admirable as he is. Upstairs our Abdul is a trusty soul; he appears 
before your finger has left the bell-push, and anticipates your every 
wish. No detail of mending escapes him. He has darned my 
dress-coat and Babuschka's clothes, removes long-established stains 
from my old riding-breeches, and the moment we leave the room 
everything is tidied up and every speck of dust removed. Uncon- 
sciously we accept a nabob-like existence as though we had always 
been used to it. Babuschka possesses that natural gift for making 
exactly the right demands on servants which Whistler praised in 
his mother. Her home was an American plantation. Often she 
would sit idly at a window, gazing out and leaning on the sill. 
If the sky clouded over and the weather looked threatening, she 
would call to a slave boy: 
"Jim, it's going to rain. Come help me to move." 
We are lying opposite the island of Elephantine, in the most 


luxuriant stretch of the Nile. Here the stream offers its whole 
peculiar foaming torrent, and it would be unfair to compare it 
with the whirlpool in front of the Cataract. Instead of a capacious 
and indiscreet terrace exposed to the vulgar gaze, where the Behns 
spend their empty lives, a smooth and cosy balcony projects in front 
of our first-floor windows. In the morning you can easily step out 
with little on and cast your eye into the distance over the tops 
of the fragrant acacias, or some such trees, wave to the boats, laugh 
and joke with the Bischarin and only expose yourself to the public 
below. At a given moment you retire into your room. Now and 
then it occurs to you to drape yourself in your red silk dressing- 
gown. The Bischarin is entranced, partly because he loves color, 
partly because it gives him a chance of swinging his glass chain 
and dancing and producing from his caftan a lot of dried croco- 
diles of various sizes. His laughing face, full of fun, is capped by a 
mass of hair smeared with Nile mud till it looks like a crown 
of thorns. 

The Bischarin are said to speak an idiom like ancient Egyptian; 
they bring in desert-produce on their camels. They camp in holes 
and tent just outside Assuan in the desert. If you go near, herds 
of naked children swarm out and crowd round your horse, clamor- 
ing for bakshish. So do all the other children, incidentally. Bak- 
shish is synonymous with whites. The smallest ones don't yet know 
that you must hold out your hand as well. 

In the morning I work, or pretend to do so, Babuschka sits for 
hours in the sun-bath on the flat roof of the hotel and draws. I 
can't stand it for more than ten minutes; it dazzles me. The sun- 
bath is also used by the lively blonde with the pretty legs and weak 
chest, who lunches daily with the smart Berlin doctor. Babuschka 
thinks there's something fishy about their relations with each other; 
consumptive people are always so sensual. Next to the doctor's 
table is the corner-table at which sits the crippled brunette and her 
nurse, also German. The brunette, very delicate, Yvonne's type, 

i 5 o EGYPT 

moves with difficulty, which suits her extraordinarily well. To 
their right, beyond the window, sit the English couple. She is the 
sulkiest of all the red-wattled turkey-hens that England ever pro- 
duced; in him the red, overlaid on blue, overflows on to his nose. 
Every day he polishes off a considerable amount of wine, and 
they never say a word to each other. The English clergyman and 
his wife come and have coffee at their table as a rule, and they 
are always as surprised as though they had never met before. The 
red-nosed man jumps up and doesn't sit down again until the 
reverend gentleman and his spouse are seated. The ladies converse 
in cooing tones; and as the red-nosed person is deaf the reverend 
gentleman trumpets the latest news into his ear. "A very fine 
day indeed!" Franz tells us that when his reverence arrived he 
always went about in a wheeled chair and could hardly whisper. 
The same was true of the head of a Breslau family in the back 
part of the room. Near them is the chirpy Irish maid, called Canary, 
whom you might take for seventeen and who is said to be a 
grandmother. It is all very simple and life glides by as light- 
footedly as our Sudanese. The invalids don't bother us at all; they 
even give an atmosphere of actuality, and as each declares he is 
much better, general peace and content prevail, while the parasites 
at the Cataract are pining away with boredom. We don't refuse, 
all the same, when we're invited there. 

In the afternoon we always go for a ride in the desert, generally 
on our side, the Libyan or Arabian. To reach the Sahara on the 
other .side you have to be rowed across to the opposite shore. I 
always feel a slight inclination to talk of the two deserts as if they 
were parts of Paris, on the right or left bank of the Seine. When- 
ever Herr Behn, with his sixteen camels and countless porters, bursts 
forth at this or that oasis it is quite another matter, although his 
deportment hardly concerns us except as a decorative arabesque. 
One lives on the edge of things. When we ride into the desert we 
come immeasurably closer to the donkeys which carry us. The 


question whether he trots well or badly is more important than 
our espousal of the desert. Donkeys are extraordinary creatures. 
Here am I, a heavy fellow, carried by a weak-legged beast without 
grumbling; he might even gallop for a quarter of an hour at a 
stretch, and if the driver had his way we should never pause in 
our jogtrot career. Babuschka is always wrangling with her fellow 
who cannot get out of the habit of giving his donkey constant 
whacks on the hindquarters. If you take his stick away, he uses 
his fists. At one and the same moment he is heading straight for a 
consumptive's end and ruining his donkey. It must be so. 

I don't know why, but I always imagined the desert quite 
different, flat and interminable, something like a Liineburger Heide 
without vegetation and with an immensity of sand and sun-mysti- 
cism; it never occurred to me to connect the word with desolation. 
But that's what it is, at all events in these parts, and it probably 
goes on like that all the way to the Red Sea. A mountainous waste 
whose profile displays unmistakable signs of a catastrophe, and at 
the same time misses the formal harmony to which we are accus- 
tomed in more favored spots. Here there was war. A barrage of 
thousands of mortars has hacked up the ground, and countless 
subterranean mines once upon a time threw layers of stones, which 
had been reposing deep in the earth, high into the air and caused 
this indescribable havoc. As the fragments of rock once fell, black- 
end by fire, so they still lie today. Now and -then you meet noble 
granite such as they once used for temples in the North. Oftener 
one is reminded of slag-heaps, such as you see on a small scale in 
our mining districts, and one can imagine that these heaps belonged 
to an industry conducted on a monstrous scale which one day was 
swept off the face of the earth. 

The donkeys clamber up the heights with delicate care and stand 
as still as chairs while you dismount. It is superfluous to appraise 
the view over the Arabian desert, for nature has here shown her 
misanthropic intentions too plainly and the violence of the destruc- 

152 EGYPT 

tion has likewise robbed it of its grandeur. The slag-heap motifs 
are constantly repeated. 

The Arabian desert is only beautiful on its very edges or when 
it forms a background to Babuschka and her donkey or serves some 
other use by way of contrast. It is beautiful to come upon the 
narrow strip of fertile land with its silvery palms and the Nile 
and to find bright yellow again after the dry and dusky hue of the 
desert. Really you only go out for the pleasure of coming back. 
On the return journey, as soon as you pass the huts of the Bis- 
charin and enter the hilly village street the donkeys fall into a 
gallop of their own accord and there's no holding the drivers. 
Men gape at you from the doors of their houses, children shout, 
and you feel like Charlemagne. At the entrance to the bazaar it is 
so narrow that you have to stop. The donkey pushes his nose be- 
tween the negroes carrying trays of sweetmeats. As soon as there's 
breathing space he's off again, and now the problem is how to 
arrive in good form. It is beautiful to put on a clean shirt and to 
dine with all passible ease; the desert is a mudbath for the eyes, 
a breaker of habits, a massage in itself. In addition the air is several 
degrees drier, so that before the war there was a German sana- 
torium in the desert. We should be in a position to utilize hygien- 
ically the calories released at the Last Judgment. 

The sakiyeh squeals from morning till night. It is the sound of 
the wooden pins on the wheel, which is turned by an ox walking 
round and round in order to raise the Nile water in buckets on to 
the fields. Of course the wood is never greased. Badly oiled doors 
often squeak in the same way, only you must imagine the noise 
going on continually, as happened when we were children and 
kept swinging a door to and fro on its hinges until somebody 
came to give us a good spanking. This screeching goes on all along 
the Nile. It is something like the bagpipes, but less sonorous, and 
as no other sounds drown it you can hear it miles away. I get 
up early, about four o'clock as a rule, but the satyyeh is going still 


earlier. You forget that the noise is caused by the wood and an ox 
walking round and round, and you take it for a resonant property 
of the atmosphere. If you have nothing else to do, the continual 
repetition of the same phrase gets on your nerves, and you stop 
your ears. You see fat oriental women with painted woe-begone 
faces and drooping breasts; they loll on ottomans with the white 
Turkish stuff called nougat between their teeth. It often happens 
that you go out into the desert simply to get away from the 
satyyeh. The ancient Egyptians must have known the sound, for 
they used the same method of irrigation. As soon as I start a serious 
conversation with anybody or attend to some business I find the 
safyyeh not merely inoffensive but actually pleasant. 

At Assuan the Nile indulges in its richest variations and does 
everything it can to prepare for the first cataract. Innumerable 
islands are dotted about; most of them are toys abandoned by the 
river, whose torrent once fretted the rocks into queer shapes when 
the course was different funnels shaped like coffee-mills, so that 
you can't imagine how they ever were made, crazy weather-vanes 
that look as if they had been pulled out with gigantic corkscrews, 
and antediluvian spiral shelters. No river dreams of such antics in 
our part of the world. 

The long stretch of Elephantine is idyllic. Once the island 
possessed its own god and temple, and in those days elephants 
must have occurred hereabouts. Now the island boasts a big yellow 
hotel with green shutters; it is the Savoy, the smartest hotel in 
Assuan, but it has been closed since the war, for even the others 
are hardly full. The big yellow building, surrounded by luxuriant 
palms and huge red flowering bushes, looks very well Behind it 
run the irregular lines of the farther shore, on whose height an- 
cient Egyptian rock-tombs open their black eyes; and just here you 
can make out the rectangular box with the bay in the center and 
the many rows of friendly windows. No ruin, even of the most 
sumptuous temple conceivable, can replace the seductive smartness 

154 EGYPT 

of modern Europe. Even Cook's patent many-decked steamers, 
white floating boxes, also with rows of windows, make quite a 
good appearance. A rowboat propelled by slaves, on which Phar- 
aoh's general accommodated his half legion, would look absurd. 
Our towering boxes turn out to be the best trimming for the river 

The Nile bends northward and our dark shore skirts the horizon 
in a mighty curve. This is the view that the people at the Cataract 
have no notion of; Babuschka has been trying to get it for weeks. 
It seems as though one must have gray hair to catch it. The curve 
surpasses everything in the river line and might well belong to an 
inland lake. You can even imagine a sea beach in the distance. 
Water and earth unite in a rare display of color and forget their 
usual functions: the water, that it is a river, and the earth, that it is 
solid ground. The sky contributes its share, and man clean forgets 
himself and longs to become an arch to span it. 

Beyond, the yellow Sahara unfolds itself, like a yellow infinity. 
But maybe there lurks behind the waves of sand the same destroy- 
ing hand as behind our curve, and only the facade is formed by the 
Nile. One ought to have an airplane. Gray heights rise out of the 
yellow, dotted with the eyes of the rock-tombs, and the topmost 
places are black. The yellow sand slips down into the valley in a 
smooth flat slope. There is nothing more delightful than to slide 
barefoot down the soft yellow furrows. Merely on looking down 
the slope you imagine the sensation. 

The road along our bank, beyond the bend, leads to at least a 
dozen decent houses and is the pride of Assuan. Otherwise Euro- 
pean dwellings are rare, and the greater part are helter-skelter 
huts made of Nile mud. In the courts palm-trees grow here and 
there, surprisingly close together, in picturesque confusion. As 
they are of varying height it often looks as though they were 
growing on the houses in dung which the natives are fond of using 
as a warming thatch. You become reconciled to the palm-trees 


here. They have none of the neat decorativeness of an Italian or 
Spanish square and none of the symmetry which degrades them 
into pot plants even when they occur in masses. On account of their 
color I like to think they belong to a different species. Their scale 
of colors is not derived from the European green, which always 
looks slimy because of the structure of the palm, but from a dusty 
gray; and what they offer us is not contrast, which is no use here, 
but a silvery glitter. They are something like torches in the day- 
time. Perhaps that is the beauty of this place, that you get far 
less contrast but immeasurably more tones. Yellow and blue are 
the great dominants; but what a range of tones in between! 

The blonde and the doctor go sailing every day. He hopes to 
shoot a crocodile and generally takes with him the hunter who 
wears a dilapidated cockade as a sign that he once served the Ger- 
man Crown Prince. He can say: "At your service." The Crown 
Prince shot crocodiles every day here, and for each of them the 
hunter got ten pounds. The silver cockade once bore the mark 
"Jager I." In course of time the a has fallen out, and so we read 
]ger. The doctor will only go up to five pounds and wants me to 
go equal shares. Babuschka is enquiring about elephants. We saw 
two gigantic elephant-tusks at the station, the trophies of a Hun- 
garian magnate; but they came from Khartum which is over a 
thousand kilometers to the South. We are on the edge of things 

Just behind Schacht's house the street climbs up to the bazaar 
on its way out into the desert. The bazaar is just one street, a 
primitive version of the Muski in Cairo. As the roofs of the over- 
hanging houses are joined together with sailcloth on account of 
the sun, you feel almost as if you are in a house a house where 
you find camels. They weave pretty baskets at Assuan and in the 
neighborhood. They are very sturdy, look as if they were made of 
colored twine, and carry quite heavy burdens. With such basket- 
work we have decorated the walls of our room, and ever since 

156 EGYPT 

then we have felt as i we had grown up in Assuan. Otherwise 
industry is confined to the manufacture of antiquities in which they 
ply an extensive trade. The chief imports are Offenbach, also 
Pforzheim, and then Solingen steel for the blades of negro dag- 
gers, which they sell in wrinkled crocodile-skin sheaths. Funeral 
caskets and the alabaster vases, in which the ancient Egyptians pre- 
served the intestines of their beloved dead, are produced here on 
a huge scale; the alabaster varies in quality, and the cheapest is a 
sort of cheese which hardens in the sun and becomes odorless. 
In our latitudes it gradually returns to its original condition, be- 
comes pliable and smells like Cheshire cheese. The better things 
are turned from genuine blocks of alabaster. Luxor and the an- 
cient Thebes, the city of the tombs, are the centers of the sculpture 
industry. Many of the workers seem to resemble the Italians. At first 
I took every piece for a fake, but later on, relying on my increasing 
experience, I began to take a less prejudiced view which gave us 
much more spiritual satisfaction. I even succeeded in suppressing 
Babuschka's still deeper rooted distrust. One mustn't forget that 
they're always digging things up, day in, day out, not only in the 
authorized sites from which the finds have to go to the museums. 
To be sure, the natives are liable to punishment if they dig on 
their own responsibility, and by rights they are supposed to give up 
whatever comes into their possession, but naturally you might just 
as well try to keep the Milky Way under observation. The selec- 
tion underground will last for a good while to come, even if the 
present comparatively restricted demand were to increase. Babusch- 
ka's dream would be to conduct a secret excavation of her own, 
and she has discussed it in all seriousness with Abdul, who to his 
loss quite failed to understand her. I should be better pleased with 
a small bronze on view in the tiny shop-window next door to the 
hotel; it represents two little parallel ichneumons on one base and 
was probably a funeral offering to a child of the eighteenth dynasty. 
Beside it stands a round open alabaster bowl of classic shape. Both 


things are absurdly cheap, and Schacht thinks one could do even 
better. A dignified aloofness distinguishes the dealer very favor* 
ably from those in the bazaar. He speaks English with difficulty and 
counts Borchardt and many other museum people among his 
customers. After we had turned everything over to our heart's 
content we decided, in the interests of our Nubian expedition, to 
refrain from buying anything; but some days later yesterday, in 
fact when Babuschka and Frau Schacht had gone out for a ride 
by themselves and I was supposed to be working, I bought the 
bowl and the ichneumons, and besides these, a wonderfully pre- 
served eighteenth dynasty marble head and a tiny bowl in the 
form of a fish, apparently an early one. It was intoxicating. Actually 
I had only gone out for a breath of air as an unusually extensive 
problem was troubling my head; but a craving for action excited 
my powers which were not enslaved by my work and drove me 
to this extravagance. I scarcely heard the dealer's soft words of 
greeting and certainly paid no attention to them. The bronze 
ichneumons shimmered with an unearthly patina and suddenly the 
scales fell from my eyes in an unexpected fashion. The alabaster 
bowl stood there for me alone and nobody else, a vessel for my 
long accumulated feelings; and the marble head such a one as 
we had never dreamed of was beyond all tormented reflections, 
the symbol of a leap from the humdrum of every day into the 
realms of poetry. 

Babuschka made eyes; and the astounding fact impressed her so 
deeply that all comment died on her lips. We cleared the books 
and the tea-things away and set out the four objects on the pol- 
ished wood of the commode. The head didn't look well in the 
middle, under the woven wall plaque, as I had originally planned, 
for this conventional arrangement seemed too commonplace and 
not on a par with the importance of the object; but we put it on 
the extreme left, half way back. On the extreme right, in the fore- 
ground, we put the alabaster bowl, as a baknce to the head, and in 

i 5 8 EGYPT 

between, in a picturesque zigzag, the bronze and the black fish 
on whose back closer inspection revealed choice engraving. We went 
to the shop again today. If one devoted a tithe of this lust for gazing 
to the things in a museum one might learn something. Purchas- 
ableness is the most seductive quality of a work of art. 

Dr. Beermann has got his crocodile. It was sunning itself on a 
rock not far from the cataract and is said to have been two yards 
long. After the death-blow it still had strength enough to disap- 
pear into the Nile and to expose the Doctor to our skepticism. 
The Jger's contention that its corpse would come to the surface 
again in a day or two was not taken seriously by anybody, not only 
because the Doctor frankly admitted that he had never shot so 
much as a hair, but also because a beast two yards long, capable 
of gobbling up a man, was hardly in place here. As an experienced 
doctor, accustomed to reckoning with psychological factors in every 
case, and penetratingly conscious of the limits of human observation, 
Dr. Beermann treated his day's sport with cheerful self-mockery 
which suited his comfortable appearance, and submitted with a 
good grace to the chaflE of the nurse. Only his blonde table-com- 
panion, who had taken part in the hunt, insisted on the coup de 
grace and had followed every movement of the beast with her 
field-glasses. Babuschka took this as a confirmation of her suspi- 
cions as to the sinister relations between them; I was convinced 
that the opposite was true, and the event showed I was right. 

But the improbable had happened, for yesterday morning they 
actually landed the crocodile. It was not two yards long, to be 
sure: not much more than half that length and quite a young 
beast. Still it was a crocodile right enough. We have seen and 
smelt it. Already it stank like the plague. The doctor had it stuffed 
and took it home with him; he even sacrificed to it the promised 
bottle of champagne. Then his uncommonly sympathetic views 
on German politics made their appearance into the bargain; he too 
will have none of Rathenau and gives Ebert a minor place. His 


optical delusion remains unexplained. He had plenty of time to 
make sure of the beast's length, and besides there was the rock it 
lay on for him to measure by. He swore it was a good two yards, 
called the Jger a swindler, and declared that this journey that 
ended in the hunting-party was the last he'd ever undertake. One 
should never have doubts about human nature. 

But the story has a sequel. . . . We were sitting in the hall. The 
Schachts were there too, Frau Schacht in white with an oriental 
shawl. There are heaps and heaps of pretty women here. 

"Do you believe, my dear sir," said Dr. Beermann, turning to 
Dr. Schacht, "that there are any crocodiles at Assuan?" 

Schacht thought not. Not one had been this side of the cataract 
for thirty years. 

"But what about the other side?" 

Schacht said yes. At times they even came quite near the dam. 

"Then how do you acount for my crocodile on this side?" 

"It must have got through the sluice by accident." 

"But isn't that very unlikely, sir?" 


Beermann nodded. The yellow lady and the nurse were com- 
ing out of the lift. The nurse ordered a whiskey. 

"No," said Beermann very emphatically, "it must have come 
over land." 

Schacht, with the caution due to a colleague, held his peace. I 
pointed out that the alligator's dachshund-like pedals would make 
locomotion on foot too slow an affair to allow him to escape our 
notice, especially near the dam. The doctor, however, believes quite 
other things to be possible. 

"Why of course!" says the blonde. (She has kept to her room 
since the adventure.) 

"For crocodiles," continued the doctor (he has a quaint way of 
saying crocodile ... a flowery way, I should call it) ". . . croco- 
diles are able to change their nature." 

i6o EGYPT 

"How?" asked the nurse. 

"Why not?" demanded the blonde, with spirit, while Babuschka, 
who was not in a position to kick my foot, tried to catch my eye. 

Beermann ordered a whiskey. Two meters was his length for the 
crocodile, and now it turned out to be one meter, seventeen. The 
possibility of shrinkage so far observed in mammals is compara- 
tively slight and moreover it does not happen in a few days. 

Perhaps the crocodile will reach two meters when it's stuffed, I 
suggested, and told them how Hama, our dearly beloved Japanese 
setter, had been run over by a bus and had come back from being 
stuffed in the shape of a mastiff. 

Schacht asked for the Jger. 

"Very well,'* said Beermann; and now comes the denouement. 

Crocodile-hunting at Assuan is a drama reserved for strangers, 
a puppet-show and, as such, more modern than those customary 
festivals at home, at Oberammergau, Bayreuth and Salzburg, which 
are carried out by living actors and are exposed to all the dangers 
of dramatic routine. The Jger, the Reinhardt of Assuan, resembles 
the latest Russians in that he gets his effects exclusively by inspired 
producing. The crocodile puppet is placed on a rock: no ordinary 
natural rock, of course, but a scene prepared with due regard for 
technical and psychological considerations. It contains the apparatus 
corresponding to the puppet's wires a movable plank, in fact, 
painted like a rock, the crocodile-board. On this reposes the stuffed 
monster like the slumbering Siegfried on his upholstered booby- 
trap. The board reaches under water and is connected to a system 
of rods which are worked from the wings. When the shot hits, the 
board slips into the water and the crocodile disappears into the 
watery trap. After a few days they present the marksman with the 
corpse of a beast killed in the south they have fetched down in 
the meantime. 

Babuschka inquired why they didn't put the original crocodile 
straight onto the rock, and revealed what a featherpate she is. 


"It would stink too much/* remarked the doctor. 

Schacht, who is familiar with this drama, related how a brace 
of crocodiles fell to an American Nimrod last year. In memory 
of it the good man gave a thousand pounds to the Christian Mis- 
sion at Assuan. 

We joined company with the Behn family and were asked to 
dinner. There was masses of good caviare and moderate wine and 
the claret was served in green goblets. Frau Behn who comes from 
Hanover talks through her nose in a refined voice and prefers 
words with an 6 in them. What a blessing to be rid of that 
horrible Europe. Babuschka is an enchonting person. There is 
nothing so lovely as sailing through the eternal sand alone on a 
ship of the desert. Hunting is lothsome, on the other hand, espe- 
cially for these alligators who are among the sacred beasts. You 
find the whole soul of the country in a camel, and the crocodile's 
eyes are patriotic. 

Her husband takes the oh-how-pretty view of life and won't risk 
his life over out-of-the-way things. The Jger is a scamp, of course, 
but useful enough. He will take him hunting big game up the 
White Nile. I can join them, if I care to. Babuschka is entitled 
"young lady"; she can come too. . 

"Bohn," says Frau Behn, "don't be so improper!" 

She suffers on her husband's account. Egon is a genius, of course, 
but he has no psychic sense and so no sense of reality such as 
natures like herself possess. She has stroggled with it. 

"Egon too, I assure you, is pathotic." 

After this I took Babuschka away to our terrace under the 
stars, and the evening thickened round us. 

Then Frau Behn called to her swain: 

"Oh, Egon . , . 

If only you were what I wanted, 

And I were what you wanted too 

Oh Egon, 

zfe EGYPT 

We should, I fancy, prove inconstant 
You to me and I to you." 

The tombs dating from the Middle Kingdom on the opposite 
bank of the Nile belonged to provincial grandees and are nothing 
special The guardian, a nice man with a blind eye that reminded 
us of Ibrahim, showed them to us thoroughly, but the view over 
the Nile valley diminished our interest in the rock-caves. We 
climbed the heights and gazed at the panorama, and here it was 
that Babuschka made her discovery. While I was admiring the 
palette of the evening sky she amused herself as she lay in the 
warm yellow sand by letting it run through her fingers. This gradu- 
ally irritated me, for this playful occupation seemed out of key with 
the nobility of the panorama and jarred on my enthusiasm. I know 
it's her way to pour cold water on one's enthusiasm; and of course 
it is possible to enjoy the sky with one's fingers in the sand. After 
a time without looking at her I thought I noticed a change in the 
rhythm of her hands. The original playful movement became pur- 
poseful and more energetic. Something dark took shape in the sand 
and compelled me to turn my eyes towards it. Silently she pointed 
to the object, a fragment of an Osiris in black stone, about thirty 
centimeters high and quite fascinating. A considerable part was 
still covered in caked sand, but the immaculate condition of the 
right half of the face and the royal headdress was already visible. 
The flowing garment enveloped the limbs. Only an insignificant 
piece below was missing. I stared at the thing greedily. My hands 
twitched and I couldn't say a word. 

"Middle Kingdom," said Babuschka quietly. "The tombs belong 
to the Middle Kingdom." 

"Of course. Quiet now!" 

She implored me not to shout although there was nobody near. 
The panorama was astonishingly unimportant. 

"Quiet now!" I repeated three times in a stupid way while my 


brain raced. The type often occurred in the upstairs cases at 
Cairo, for instance but this version surpassed all the things in 
the case. The cases were out of the picture altogether. The 
first consideration, however, was how to get the thing home. 
Quiet now! Once it was in our trunk, we had nothing to fear. I 
was wearing a tweed coat without a waistcoat. Tweed is admir- 
ably suited to such purposes; its weight was quite endurable. 
Pushed under the coat it bulged out, but this could be concealed 
with a little skill. You stuck the thing sideways between your ribs 
and your arm and held it by putting your hand through the slit in 
the pocket. RaskolnikofJ carried a heavy hatchet under his coat. 
We practiced. I had to keep on pulling it out, for a new charm 
was revealed on each occasion. Even if it only came from the New 
Kingdom it was still a jewel. One would either fasten the torso on 
a bronze pin fixed into the stone plinth, in which case the height 
of the pin must correspond with that of the missing foot, or else 
have a wooden base modeled to allow the piece to rest loosely in 
it. That would be preferable, as one could then take the thing in 
one's hand. We tried to make a support out of sand and pebbles, in 
order to study the effect, but it didn't hold. 

Suddenly the guardian appeared. I tried to hide the statuette, but 
it was too late. The man was smiling in an indolent detached way. 
I quietly showed him our find. 

"Osiris!" he said. "Good!" Good was the only English word he 

"Very good!" I nodded and offered him a cigarette. 

He took the cigarette and the Osiris too, and then came a torrent 
of Arabic whose drift was clear enough. He must give the thing 
up to the Kadi at Assuan. 

"Well I never," said Babuschka, as if it was my fault, when It 
was she who urged me to unbutton my coat again. She argued the 
point, and mentioned the little pile of sand. As for that, it was I, 
and not she, who advised it during the discussion about the pedestal. 

164 EGYPT 

In any case it didn't signify, for the business was now over and done 
with. I told her to come quietly and admire the view with me. 
I nodded briefly to the guardian. As you please ... we don't 
care . . . good-by! . . . Then we turned to the panorama. The in- 
tensity of the yellow would have been impossible in Italy and was 
due to reflections from the desert. 

"Phew!" said Babuschka. 

"If you look once more at the fellow, I'll give up and go back 
home." My voice trembled. 

She lay down on her back and gazed at the sky. So we remained 
for a quarter of an hour; from time to time I said yes, yes ... 
for lack of something better to say, and waved my hand towards 
the view. Then we quietly and amicably took our leave of the 
guardian and made as though we were going home. I sent Ba- 
buschka on ahead. For showing us around the guardian got a tip 
. . . neither too large nor too small. Unconcernedly I played about 
with a five pound note at the same time. He still held the statu- 
ette in his hand. I still kept up my studied indifference. Then, as 
though a sudden idea had struck me, I put the note into his hand 
in place of the statuette, placed the thing very slowly and carefully 
under my tweed coat, gave him a brief nod, and went after 
Babuschka, who was already half way down. I concealed the result 
from her and implied that I had hopes of taking the matter up 
tomorrow. As we were getting on board the boat I very nearly 
dropped the thing but Babuschka noticed nothing in her dejection. 
She held me responsible, of course, but refrained from reproaching 

When we got home she went off at once to talk to Frau Schacht. 
Meanwhile I cleaned the thing and discovered that the damage to 
the left side of the face was far less serious than we had at first 
been led to believe. In the hope of finding a temporary base I went 
to see our dealer. He happened to have one which might have 
been made for it When I asked how he liked the thing, he smiled 


engagingly and finally told me that he thought it was a good, a 
very good reproduction. Now it was my turn to smile; such is the 
jealousy of dealers. It caused us all this confusion and gave art- 
dealers their peculiar relish for depreciation. On this occasion, how- 
ever, he needn't try to score off a rival. This piece, covered with 
sand thousands of years old, we had dug up with our very own 

My announcement fell quite flat. It was composition, not stone, 
the dealer insisted, and took a bite at it to prove it. It was un- 
pleasant to see the thing in the man's mouth. As it turned out, he 
showed me a distinct mark of his teeth in the material and the 
place where he had bitten was pink. This demonstration only 
proved, however, that the ancient Egyptians knew perfectly well 
how to make casts, as I had already been told. 

The dealer invited me into the back of his little shop, opened a 
cupboard, and showed me four or five pieces exactly like mine to 
a hair's breadth, and all covered with sand thousands of years old. 
They came from Bunzlau, but he got them from the agent in Cairo, 
a Greek. 


JLHE journey to the second cataract had long been decided upon, 
and only the means o transport was still causing us delay. Ordi- 
nary people go from Assuan to Wadi-Halfa by Cook's steamer and 
prefer to wear their dinner jackets and devote themselves to their 
usual dances even in Nubia, We longed to be rid of the ordinary 
forms of hotel existence for a day or two, and, limited to our own 
company, to give ourselves up to the various impressions of Nile 
travel. Besides, the steamer gets to Abu Simbel, the most striking 
point, by night, stops only a couple of hours, and does not allow a 
thorough examination of the rock-temple. Above all, Cook dis- 
plays the temple by electric light. 

The merchant in the square possessed a small motor-boat a 
mere nutshell which you can charter. It is generally used simply 
for short afternoon trips; but last year it conveyed two famous 
German savants to Nubia, and would therefore do quite well 
enough for us. The only point to bear in mind was the necessity 
for spending our nights in an open boat. There was a kind of 
cabin aft, to be sure, but its very narrow bunk would only hold 
Babuschka at the most, and as it also contained the minute W. C. 
it was not very inviting. We brought along our beds, with our 
bedding and winter clothes as well, and made arrangements for a 
trial night, as we were advised to do. Schacht produced Mohammed 


THE DAM 167 

Sherkaui, the captain of the two German savants. His cheerful 
and reliable appearance immediately encouraged us. Mohammed 
belongs to the Nubian intelligentsia and even talks some German. 
We made our terms with him in a friendly fashion. For a lump 
sum down he undertook the whole journey there and back, includ- 
ing the engaging of the necessary crew. We should have to do with- 
out onions and leeks and such things, on account of the cost. 

Mohammed fetched us at the hotel one fine morning and took 
us and our things to Shellal on the dam, where the motorboat, 
which had previously been brought through the lock, was to await 
us. It was still at the last sluice and we went across the dam. That 
takes a good half-hour, unless you travel on a little transport wagon 
that runs on rails. This dam is no ordinary affair; it is as wide as 
a decent-sized street and has two tracks, one for the little wagon 
aforementioned, and another much wider for the crane. It is 
made entirely of stone and stretches like a straight thread for nearly 
two kilometers. On one side, towards the Sudan, it is only a 
trifle higher than the water level; the other stone wall towers above 
the almost empty rocky bed of the Nile, and the water which 
escapes in cascades through the sieve was a mere trifle compared 
with the expanse of stony bed which resembles the skeleton of a 
giant who had been knocked out and has fallen there. They have 
used granite for their building-material. The thickness gradually 
decreases with the height like the pylon of a temple, but the moder- 
ate size does not dispel the impression of artificiality and it remains 
astonishing that the dam can withstand the mass of water pent up 
inside for hundreds of kilometers into Nubia. Although doubtless 
everything is calculated twice and three times over, one cannot help 
feeling a bit uncomfortable, like a rope-dancer. At short intervals 
along the edge of the stone track are the black iron bars by which 
the 1 80 water-sluices deep down below are released or closed. At 
this time only about two are kept open, as little water is needed. On 
the black iron the name of the English firm is cast in solemn letters. 

i68 EGYPT 

The crane is designed to travel to the bars and to open them with 
its projecting derrick. This black traveling apparatus with its gal- 
lows running on a chain is a grotesque enlargement of the ma- 
chine with which the dentist drills your teeth. A little black man 
attends to it; he was standing half concealed behind the iron parti- 
tion. You could see his amiable face, which was not much lighter 
than the iron, and his gray beard round his thick lips. 

As the little black man feels disposed, he gives Egypt a drink or 
lets it stay thirsty. As we came up the crane was about in the middle 
of the dam and appeared to be out of action. Suddenly it started 
off quite fast with a jolt and a clatter, came to meet us and turned 
its gallows as it came. There was something surprising about the 
simultaneousness of the two movements. It stopped just as suddenly 
and remained on the watch. People with some technical experience 
would see nothing odd in such a crane; and I have seen hundreds 
like it in many harbors and also in my brother's iron-foundry in 
Westphalia. At Shellal one was forced to look at it at close quar- 
ters and I must confess that I found this iron affair distinctly un- 
congenial. According to Baedeker the dam has enabled over 200,000 
hectares of Egypt to be reclaimed for cultivation and Egyptian na- 
tional resources are increased about 15 million pounds. As a conse- 
quence the upper Nile has become like a mountain-lake in Upper 
Bavaria and one would never be surprised to see a boatload of 
yodelling lads and maidens in their Sunday best on the way to 

There is nothing like these cruises in tiny boats. In the aforesaid 
aft cabin, which we don't use, Mohammed has stowed away his 
tackle. Then come the engine-room and the wheel. Here the crew 
squat: three men, apart from Mohammed steersman, mechanic 
(whom Mohammed calls the engineer), and cook. The latter usu- 
ally sits on our side. Apart from the engineer, a Copt who wears a 
city cap and displays signs of social unrest, all are dressed in a 
turban and a gown which is meant to be white. The steersman sits 


on the rail with his hand on the wheel and gazes quietly about 
him with his hawk-eye. Then comes our domain, marked of? by a 
step, three paces long. A little table, two basket chairs and an 
awning over our heads. To crank up the engine you have to move 
the table and lean into the dark hole. The engine sets the boat in 
a pleasant vibration. The bow of the boat forms the cupboard-like 
galley; in the tiny door sits the cook with his back to us, a real 
roundhead, and juggles with the pots on the spirit-stove. It is com- 
fortable. Now and then Babuschka lies on the narrow pointed 
roof, with her face in her hands: a mermaid figurehead, such as 
you find on old galleons. 

Soon after Shellal we passed the island of Philae, once the pearl 
of Egypt; or rather, we traveled over it, close to the point by the 
temple pylon covered with hieroglyphs. Alongside it the capitals 
of the celebrated kiosk rise out of the water. Baedeker says that the 
islands famed in song have lost much of their charm since the 
building of the dam; he is right, and the same applies to most 
submerged objects. Imagine what St. Mark's would look like if 
the lagoon covered it and only the strange outline of the roof were 
left. So long as 200,000 hectares of land can be reclaimed for cul- 
tivation, humanity is not to be joked with. Without great incon- 
venience the English might have made this contribution to culture 
a couple of kilometers further south, as Borchardt proposed; but 
the English are a law unto themselves where culture is concerned. 
As a Nubian, Mohammed Sherkaui dislikes the dam and mis- 
understands the indirect advantages of the 200,000 hectares. The 
conception of national resources is also lost upon him. From his 
point of view the dam is no good except to one or two rich Egyp- 
tians and the Nubians are left in the damp. They were advised to 
abandon the place and settle down in other hectares elsewhere. 
You might as well give the same advice to the temples of Philae, 
or the palms too. It's a shame, the way they've treated the palms. 
The tops of the palms rise above the water everywhere, and you 

i 7 o EGYPT 

might take them for reeds. Since the Nubians refused to leave, 
new houses were built for them a couple of meters higher up 
than the sunken ones; under pressure Mohammed admits that 
they are better than the old ones. They keep to the native style: 
boxes of Nile-mud bricks which mimic the gray they stand on. 
Only when you sail quite near in to land do they detach themselves 
from the rocks. Sometimes they have curved roofs which dispense 
with windows and suggest a modernized version of ancient Egypt. 
In the upper part of the wall the windows are replaced by a prac- 
tical and prettily constructed lattice-work. Sometimes white dishes 
decorate the blue walls over the doors: an ingenious contrivance of 
a craftsman who had to extract a smile out of a slender budget, 
and not bad ornament in its homely way. Dishes do not seem neces- 
sary in these parts for other purposes, for it remains a mystery how 
people get anything to eat in this dearth of fruitful land. Moham- 
med, who could perhaps enlighten us, professes ignorance. Not a 
speck of green, mile after mile; only gray mimicking gray. Then 
you come to thin green strips like the slopes of a railway embank- 
ment. Women are at work among the shrubs and never look up, 
though we pass quite close by. 

There are only women and children in the land. Men who can 
earn money are in the North and come up now and then for a visit. 
Family life is under water. 

When the strips get wider you find a sa\iyeh knocked together 
out of unshaped timber and branches; it is shaded with leafage and 
turned by a leisurely ox, and its litany lulls the ear to sleep. Quite 
half the water it picks up is lost, because the buckets don't fit or 
the gutter leaks. That is the picturesque part; the natives are not 
aware of this charm, of course, but still they let the water run. 
Indolence drags them back; but is that the only thing that prevents 
their realizing just the slight improvements which would follow 
upon the strengthening of the wood and the doubling of the water- 
supply? It is easy for people who are used to the dam to realize it. 


Perhaps it is lightheadedness rather than perversity, perhaps pre- 
occupation with things we do not even guess at, perhaps a silly, 
but enjoyable, self-confidence and openhandedness. Safety eh and 
dam the distinction could hardly be made more clearly. Instinct- 
tive dread of the machine may also drive them to waste their water. 
Possibly they do it out of protest. 

Such a trip on the Nile is a pleasant affair. A hill on the horizon 
at the right moment reminds me of the pyramids and considerably 
impairs my parallel between dam and safyyeh with which I was 
feeling rather satisfied. Can one represent Egypt by that pathetic 
safyyeh? One must leave that to the stone triangles in the North. 
If that is settled, the question arises: the pyramids and Chefren's 
gate and the severely geometrical temple-plans at Sakkara, is the 
whole logic of ancient Egyptian architecture so remote from the 

The pylon-like dam stores up reflections from the early days 
which I thought I had long since left behind in the stream of ex- 
perience; and the idea of cubism, which occurred to me on my first 
visit to the pyramids, came back as fresh as ever and squeezed my 
brain. In their golden age these people erected cult-buildings of 
astounding actuality. Five thousand years later a god-forsaken hu- 
manity builds dams and sky-scraping office-blocks with the same 
actuality and in the same style, as symbols of a world controlled 
by the calculating machine. 

Under certain local conditions one may consider the pyramids 
as the climax of monumental architecture; and these conditions 
obtain in Egypt. Where the pyramids stand we can conceive noth- 
ing more natural than these structures which are accessible even at 
the furthest possible range and which entrust the whole of their 
ornamentation to the sun alone. We are amazed at the efficacy of 
this abstraction, but we are able to reflect that this abstract archi- 
tecture can become accessible to a people who at the very same 
time rose in sculpture to a point which no other people has ever 

i72 EGYPT 

reached. The reflection comes to us all the easier because we are ac- 
customed also to regard European sculpture of the great periods 
as the accompaniment of a building, and to regard the separation of 
the one from the other as the last stage on the path to the summit. 
The release of architecture from sculpture, which in the Old 
Kingdom strikes us as the crowning reward of artistic effort, 
recurs in the buildings of a great modern city; here it is the natural 
result of universal refusal, the expression of a mechanism which 
can no longer put up cult-buildings, which indeed no longer re- 
quires them, since the gods have withdrawn. Not much is lost, and 
you may say that the noblest temple and the best dam are the same 
in character. What is lost? Does the difference lie in the pent up 
waters and the 200,000 hectares reclaimed for cultivation? I needn't 
go into details; it seems to me that the pyramid still remains more 
abstract than the dam. I could discuss it with all conceivable rela- 
tivity and subtlety. But what prevents us from building a viaduct 
in the purest pyramid-style? This style is mathematical and any- 
body can make use of it. To apply it rightly you need intellect, 
taste and a certain sensitiveness to the requirements of the site: 
the regular characteristics that belong also to the artist's make-up, 
but which assuredly do not determine his creative existence. A float- 
ing white box with rows of windows may look better on the Nile 
than the noblest golden galley; but nobody thinks of calling the 
builder of Cook's steamer an artist. Preeminent wisdom and ad- 
mirable discipline urged the Egyptians, at the moment when their 
creative powers were at their height, to achieve the unadorned 
temple, the pyramids, a rational structure which has again become 
appropriate to our own needs. The moment is of extraordinary im- 
portance. In their unadorned temples built of smooth granite blocks 
they set up the incomparable monuments of their kings and gods, 
and established them as models of how to house each sculpture. 
The slightest ornament on the gateway of Chefren, which sheltered 
the diorite statues any attempt whatever to bring statue and wall 


closer together would have spoilt the echo of the monument. 
When the Middle Kingdom took to these devices and united pillar 
and statue, the highest point was already past. For the rest, a com- 
parison with our own age simply results in a confirmation of our 
ideas upon the limitations of architecture, which is never in a 
position to satisfy the final criteria that we apply to sculpture, paint- 
ing and poetry. If the Egyptians had never set the sphinx beside 
the pyramids, if the Zoser, the Chefren and the countless other 
miraculous achievements of their sculpture, in Cairo and elsewhere, 
were not contemporary with their temples, I do not know how we 
should ever have realized that they were the greatest artistic race 
on earth. What would the Russians mean to us if we had only their 
songs and dances without their Dostoievskis? But as we do possess 
them, our pleasure in the other things increases. Contemporaneity 
raises each genre far above its relative value, while a restricted 
view of each by itself reduces it. We for our part must do away with 
this tendency to restrict and so to reduce. 

For the first two days the gallows-like iron crane and the little 
black man haunted me; and I had a feeling of something vulgar 
whenever I thought of it. At every submerged palm-tree it recurred 
and oppressed me, as though I were a shareholder in the English 
firm. In summer, when the Nile-lake sinks, the place must look 
quite different. In August even Philae reappears, and the old houses 
with their dishes rise up below the new ones, and the palms get 
their trunks back again. I suppose that is when the men visit their 
families. For a couple of months the earth becomes normal; the 
little black man has opened the iron sluice. It's all quite logical, 
and people get used to it. Even the parts that become submerged 
have a charm of their own. Possibly they gain in relief and become 
simplified; but this simplification costs them their individuality. 
In antiquity, when nature alone was responsible for the inunda- 
tions, that was spared them. 

Modern man plays tricks with nature, europeanizes it, turns it 

i 7 4 ' EGYPT 

into a great wash-basin. They'll be putting Greenland in an oven 
next. There are two sides to these 200,000 hectares; the triumph of 
civilization is mixed up with gas-warfare and such jests, which one 
remembers in the desert. It lacks moderation and context. This 
water is neither lake nor river, confuses the planes and sullies the 
forms. It won't do. The mountains are too low for the wide ex- 
panse. Very likely Baedeker overestimates the charm of the temples 
at Philae; they do not belong to a good period, and even in the 
reproductions you can detect a lot of rubbish. But had the induce- 
ment been sufficient they would have done just the same with the 
pyramids and the sphinx. People who build dams are the devil's 
own kin. 

The cook, a stumpy bit of goods with a thick round head, looks, 
from behind, like somebody I know and can never identify. In 
his doll's kitchen he manufactures soups which are every bit as 
good as those at the Grand Hotel, stuffed pigeons, puddings, puff- 
pastry like the Mehlspeisen at Dobling, bd Majestat. Probably a 
choleric temperament, but self-controlled. When the people aft lean 
too much to one side, his soup slops over. Then a quarter-turn of 
his brachycephalous skull, and his upper lip lifts a trifle, like a cat 
that is just going to mew and then is too bored to go through with 
it. The others take the hint and trim their weight as he wants it, 
without interrupting their conversation. He is the only one whom 
we see saying his prayers. For this purpose he installs himself on 
the galley-roof, if it isn't occupied by Babuschka, kneels down, 
bows slowly and deeply towards the East with his thick head on 
the floor and murmurs his words. Children pray like that. In the 
Pension Heuermann fat little Philip, whom we called Phips, did 
it. The others, apart from the Coptic engineer, probably pray aft 
on the cabin roof. The Copt looked at me once during the cook's 
performance and registered a smile, though I myself was doing 
nothing of the kind. However, he understands his own business 
and keeps his rattletrap old engine in order. 


Mohammed is as imposing as a butler who has been in the family 
for thirty years and who will have his say. Although the narrow- 
ness of the boat makes it inconvenient and we insist on our dis- 
regard for ceremony he refuses to hold out the dish to me im- 
mediately after serving Babuschka, but clambers round the table 
and serves me on the left, as is proper. He recommends the best 
pieces and urges us on with royal authority. We shall take back at 
least half the tinned things we have brought with us. In the evening 
we look for a creek with as much shelter as possible, in which to 
spend the night, and then Mohammed prepares our berth with 
care. A sheet is hung across the step in order that we may change 
in privacy. Table and basket-chairs are stowed on the galley-roof, 
innumerable covers are laid on the floor. Our night toilet consists 
in putting on all the clothes we possess, and so doesn't last long. We 
spent the first night in a tiny spot called Meriyeh. No human being 
appeared in front of the gray huts. We walked to the top of the hill 
to stretch our legs. In the darkness of night the desolation was even 
more menacing. Something might be lurking behind every rock, 
with eyes that could see by night. The crew stayed on the bank and 
we clambered back along the plank on to the boat. Through the 
rods of the canopy you could see the starry sky which looked like a 
piece of stuff when you were half asleep, and came quite close. 
You forgot the dimensions and the glitter seemed like a noiseless 
function of an organism accompanied by the foolish lapping of the 
waves. The night sharpened one's hearing. A dog barking in the 
distance so far that the stars seemed nearer sent a shiver down 
your spine. You froze more sharply than in Siberia. The air hurt 
your head, as if your brain were bare. And the black gallows thing 
was there. 

In the morning the galley-roof turns into a washstand. I strip 
to the skin; and the air, still very fresh, acts like a douche. The 
Nile is both water-supply and waste-pipe. You draw up the water 
by a string in a preserve-tin. The spirit-stove is already sizzling 

176 EGYPT 

for our tea; for the cook comes later on, and Mohammed waits for 
a sign from us. To give him time to clear away we inspect the 
temple of Gerf-Husen hard by; and our thoughts turn more on 
breakfast than on Rameses, who carved the temple out of the rock. 
They attacked the stone as though it were wax, but for all that 
there is a certain want of intensity. At Abu-Simbel it must all have 
been on a much grander scale. While we are eating breakfast in 
a devout frame of rnind, we are getting on towards Dakkeh. The 
sun is beginning to warm up. I stupidly left my nail-scissors at 
Assuan; a loss of this kind may spoil a whole expedition. The cook 
has a pair, and produces a Gillette outfit as well. While I express 
my appreciation, he again lifts his lip like a cat that suppresses a 
mew. The tea is first class. 

Lilac mountains, yellow sand, trembling blue, shimmering air, 
and the solid dry wood of the little boat with the basket chairs 
and the napkin on the straw table. In addition, Hegemann's book 
on Fridericus. One can also smoke and chatter to Babuschka, and 
there is still a drop of tea in one's cup. I can't forget the frosty 
night that's behind us, that foolish, wave-lapped, silvery night with 
the passive icebound horizon, that the blessed day has turned into 
an active element in the landscape. Nothing can replace such a 
night once it has gone by. Nothing equals the rapture of feeling 
the sun on one's back after such a night in an ice-grotto, and notic- 
ing the gentle hum of the engine. Along with this goes the vibra- 
tion of my Hegemann, as he trots out his Fridericus, and the pre- 
vailing yellow (ochre, like English mustard), and the temple of 
Dakkeh, urgently recommended by Mohammed and neglected by 
us, because it would have been out of the question to get the sun 
off our backs and lay aside our books. 



"There! Under the mimosa!" 

Two, in fact. Hi! Two great brutes under the mimosa . . . they 


aren't budging . . . phew, very nearly caught the cake-tin. . . . 
Oh, they're off ... good by! 

Yes: as for this Hegemann ... I believe I now can identify 
the cook. Look at his skull; don't think of its size, look at the shape, 
and note the childlike shoulders. There's only one man like that: 
Franz Werfel. I simply must write to Vienna. As soon as I get to 
the end of the chapter, I'll sit down to the table. There's no real 
hurry, though; the post doesn't go for a week. . . . Would you 
mind drawing the curtain a bit ... it's going on very nicely 
now. . . . It's odd that this Hegemann is really an architect; I 
should have guessed he was a doctor or a lawyer. Perhaps it 
wouldn't be a bad plan to turn round and rest my legs on the 
stool. At home I should have read three books this size if I'd 
had any time for reading, that is. Last year it was a perfect scandal. 
However, now it's past it was wonderful. . . . Caje-au~lait tones 
are now getting mixed up with the yellow of the Sahara, and the 
blue is deeper. It's remarkable how it's deepening at this very mo- 
ment. * . . Why can't she take her crayons and try to draw that 
bit with the mountain at the side? And she might as well write to 
her mother. What can she be reading? She hasn't turned round 
for a quarter of an hour. 

Naturally Lutz gets annoyed with Hegemann's dry pawky style; 
and one can see why. I rather think these artificial surroundings 
would get on my nerves at home. The yellow would do it and the 
vibration of the engine. I shan't be able to see Old Fritz for a yel- 
low halo. Lutz misunderstands Hegemann's frenzy. Nobody is 
allowed to clean up Old Fritz with any objective arguments, wet 
or dry; this cannot be justified even if he suffers for it. Fridericus 
is no flight of fancy, no Penelope, no Sphinx, but an uncommonly 
real fact belonging to the armature of our political thought, and 
therefore counting as one of the springboards for our frenzy; and 
it is important to arrange the boards so that at least we can take 
off in the right direction. If we are unable to see Zoser and Chefren 

178 EGYPT 

clearly for lack of adequate documentation about their personali- 
ties, that does not hamper either our democratic attitude or our 
solid relations with ancient Egypt. We can always get into touch 
with these people, if only with the help of rational deductions from 
the abundantly available monuments of their art. Nile and desert 
help a bit, but only when the structure of their relations is fixed 
and the facade needs nothing more than a coat of yellow paint. 
The structure can only be erected according to the system which 
helps us to examine our own monuments. Hence our Egypt will 
never come nearer to the so-called historical fact, the thing-in-itself, 
than our pronunciation of the royal names to the sounds with which 
those rulers indicated themselves. Ten different Egyptologists are 
wont to pronounce those names in ten different ways* It doesn't 
matter; it matters as little as our valuation of the litany of the 
$a\iyeh t which may well have been an aria out of Figaro to the 
ancients. The only thing about ancient Egypt that charms us is 
what it has in common with us, with our desires and with our 
dreams. As this common factor is art, that will provide us with 
the safest and most general portrait of the people, if only in a sort 
of bird's eye view which does not indicate what they ate or drank 
on Sunday. Eminently historical personalities and facts reduce 
themselves to a paltry jumble, yet the actual truth, as far as it con- 
cerns us, may still emerge quite clearly. That depends simply on 
the intensity with which we examine the object from our bird's 
eye standpoint, without bothering about things outside its range 
which thus merely serve to confuse the picture. Hence we come 
to give the widest importance to art, which in our day no longer 
can drag any dog from the fire. 

The yellow of the sand now looks like an ice-pudding they 
served at the Grand Hotel the other day. Babuschka is actually 

This Hegemann has profited by the example of the inadequacy 
of Prussian historians who try to examine Old Fritz in a perspec- 


tive adapted to ancient Egypt, and thus neglect facts which must 
impress the critical understanding with all the weight of monu- 
mental evidence. That won't work. I can't play bridge if I look 
at the cards merely as a graphic display of color effects. 

The book buzzes pleasantly on like a diligent bee. It fits in with 
the vibration of the engine. It might be a wasp, possibly. . . . It's 
a notable advantage of this Nile trip, the absence of insects. Not a 
fly, let alone a gnat; at home we should be plagued by vermin in 
the most modest places. 

Men being what they are, we do not enjoy the advantages of our 
position but look about for objections. The sun is now beginning 
to scorch a bit, though the passage of air makes it cool enough. For 
a joke I'll note down the day and the hour: 11.30 on January I5th. 
Next year well speak of it again. 

Probably Hegemann is exaggerating; he didn't write his book 
in view of the Sahara, with the result that he sees Fridericus too 
yellow, without the tones between mustard and cafe au lait. But 
he's right about one thing: yellow is not sky-blue, and never can be. 
Compared with the color-blindness of national historians that is a 
result worth noting. Books ought only to be written on the Nile, 
with the sun on one's back, after those lightning-blue frosty 
nights. Gradually a change of place must be taken into considera- 
tion; and one ought to arrange oneself more in the middle with 
one's back to the wheel. The question arises in these circumstances 
whether one's feet can remain on the stool if Babuschka doesn't 
move a bit to one side. Nine-tenths would probably remain un- 
written; but that would be no disadvantage. Only really frenzied 
books, which can stand any temperature, would ever see the light 
of day. 

Midday, in unexpected heat, at the temple of Es Sebua. An 
avenue of Rameses statues and sphinxes: Babuschka is photograph- 
ing them. On one of the reliefs the color is partly preserved: brick- 
red and lemon-yellow Van Gogh's palette. It is odd what a touch 

i8o EGYPT 

o color suggests! The Copts have made a church out of the temple; 
or tried to make one, with a dour protestant entrance, and have 
painted over the old reliefs with Christian saints who haven't lasted. 
Egypt is always breaking through. The combination of Egyptian 
forms with our religious usages is startlingly incongruous. 

Children came along with chameleons and wouldn't go away; 
they did not know the word bakshish, however. Two boys galloped 
smartly by on a donkey. Afterwards they kept our boat company 
and Babuschka wanted to take them along with us. They stuck 
their fingers in their mouths and stared at us. 

Ten or twenty kilometers farther on, hills and mountains ap- 
peared on the same bank and reminded us quite distinctly of 
sphinxes. Mohammed struggled with knitted brows to understand 
what I meant, and by the time I'd made him see my point the 
picture had changed again. We spent the night near the town of 
Derr, where Mohammed has many connections; and we tried 
to fortify ourselves against the disintegrating effects of night with 
alcohol which we found in a pub belonging to a Greek. Moham- 
med took a nip to prove his independence of religious proscrip- 
tions. The night was no warmer than the first, but it went by 
quicker. Next time well bring fur caps with us. I told Babuschka 
racy stories from Paris. 

On the morning of the third day Abu-Simbel came in sight. In 
the farthest mountain in the group there was a piece cut out; and 
then two such places appeared, the larger being the entrance to 
the King's Temple, the other the entrance to the Queen's. We 
landed at a difficult spot where you have to climb the escarpment 
on all fours; and then you stand before the four giants and feel 
for the first moment oppressed by the strangeness of your com- 
pany. Including their crowns they must be a good twenty meters 
high, and as their feet stand on bases you can hardly reach their 
toes. They sit quietly there, two and two, on either side of the 
entrances which begin below their knees, and are all carved 


lock, stock, and barrel out of the gray stone of the mountain. 
The facade is otherwise confined to the flat rectangular piece be- 
fore which the colossi sit, and to a bit of ornament at the upper 
edge. The upper part of one giant's body has been knocked away, 
and the others are shamefully pitted; you can still imagine, how- 
ever, what they once looked like, and the damage has not impaired 
their grandeur. They are very large, twelve times life size; and 
you can work out where the heads would reach to if it occurred 
to them to stand up. In the photograph, however, which we were 
once shown in the institute at Cairo, they were quite dispropor- 
tionately bigger. Let me warn you for the ten thousandth time to 
beware of photographs. 

The advantage of their size does the giants no good* The ab- 
normal dimensions do not increase their impressiveness to a monu- 
mental scale, but produce all the disturbing associations we con- 
nect with real giants. The astonishing scale makes art impossible. 
The sculptor's power of creating form would not suffice for even 
the smallest format; it is confined to a tangible definition of mem- 
bers which are uncoordinated by rhythm. One might put up with 
the mechanically turned pegs instead of limbs if the anatomical 
points were even half correctly stated; but here everything is wrong, 
with the result that these giants are actually much too small. In 
order to carry heads with such crowns on top the bodies ought to 
have been a couple of meters longer. They are seated giants; they 
sit in a dignified fashion without any sit-upon, thanks to a childish 
optimism like that which devotes itself to the shaping of snow-men; 
they sit, because there is nothing else for them to do, and the un- 
conscious humor which gives our snow-men wings has a most 
uncomfortable effect here. In spite of their solemn faces, into which 
a last glimmering of the royal countenance has strayed, one can- 
not take them quite seriously. The difference between this seated 
posture and that of the enthroned Chefren and Zoser and all the 
others who have taught us how kings should sit, points the con- 

182 EGYPT 

trast. Disquieting associations will crop up. Probably one can see 
through such mimicry better since our revolution. Possibly the 
stages o the world war have toughened our mistrust of any sort o 
parade. It is confusing to the spectator in the south of Nubia, in 
a temple of Rameses the Second, to discover echoes of that stand- 
ing giant who once stood before the Siegessaule in Berlin and bore 
the features of Hindenburg. 

Babuschka loiters behind; and I concern myself with her failing 
sense of form, and call her attention to the little figures, sheltered 
beside and between the turned legs, which still further emphasize 
the perforated character of this formation. This perforated sculpture 
is contradictory to the Egyptian tradition. The capacity to treat 
stone as if it were wax brings about its own undoing. When sculp- 
ture had not yet become an industry, it was customary, in order to 
economize technical effort, not to isolate the limbs completely in 
the round but to leave them joined to the stone background. Art 
benefited by this economy. The figures were allowed to grow out of 
the material, so that dangerous holes were avoided. Deep cutting 
is always the lengthiest business. 

Babuschka asserts that they are effective. A work of art! Natur- 
ally four colossi sitting in a row are bound to produce some effect. 
Even four overgrown stone broomsticks would make their mark in 
a similar position, and with crowned heads it is notoriously a 
simpler affair. Even seated monkeys are fit candidates, as we see 
from the frieze of chimpanzees over the embrasure. 

Babuschka bristles and still gazes at the photograph. If we knew 
nothing else of Egypt, she declares, we should be delighted. She is 
determined not to make the journey to no purpose. 

So much the better for us that we do know more; but even if 
we didn't we still shouldn't be able to keep up our enthusiasm in 
front of snow-men made of sandstone. Even before Egypt came in 
sight we knew a thing or two about this Egyptian business. We 
really ought to have turned the nose of our boat back towards 


Assuan or gone farther on towards the Sudan. But you can seldom 
get Babuschka away before the end of a rotten play, either; at least, 
she says, you ought to look into things thoroughly. 

There was no answering that; and it occurred to me that every- 
body in Cairo had said that it was an uplifting moment when 
you stepped inside between the colossi. So in we stepped, and 
found it pleasant to exchange the blazing heat for cool shade. In- 
side we were struck with surprise. This cool hall supported by 
pillars belonged to a better Egypt. To be sure, the eight Rameses 
standing before the eight pillars, again colossi of a very decent 
height, were certainly not more beautiful than the seated giants 
rather poorer, if anything but they didn't monopolize one's inter- 
est, but contented themselves with their significance as architectural 
detail which one could overcome with the help of space. This 
proved kind. Probably the coolness struck us, and the gentler light 
after our open-air life of the last few days. Our eyes enjoyed the 
solid boundaries of the room, and the unaccustomed splendor of the 
reliefs on the walls heightened the effect of beauty. The great side 
wall to the left was particularly imposing. It was divided up into 
three great pictures. In the middle the victorious duel of the king 
with an enemy, who crumples up under the spear-thrust. The 
slanting line of the victor's onset and the bent knee of his sinking 
adversary provided a schematic drama. To left and right are two 
crowded scenes with the king in his war-chariot drawn by pranc- 
ing horses. On the left he shoots an arrow from his great bow into 
the melee; on the right he passes in triumph through the midst of 
his host. The three pictures are symmetrical: on the left the king 
is to the left; on the right, to the right; in the middle is the fight, 
in which the masses storming in from either side meet with a 
clash. Above the threefold composition, high up, is a row of badly 
lighted scenes which are meant to finish it off like a frieze, but 
which are not really necessary. 

For the first time we have before our eyes a picture-cycle of 

184 EGYPT 

the New Kingdom, and the novelty of it is striking. Probably 
Luxor and other places offer us the intermediate stages in the de- 
velopment. This genre was quite unknown to the creators of those 
visual lyrics in the quiet narrow tomb-chambers at Sakkara: neither 
the stormy movement nor the choice of so organic a scheme of low- 
relief decoration is found there. This new art is not to be attrib- 
uted to the innocence of those early devotees of nature, nor to the 
influence of the Middle Kingdom. Severe convulsions of every sort 
and kind may have led to the release of this grandiose movement, 
and still more probably contact with other peoples. The royal archer 
in his war-chariot makes one think of the Assyrian relief with the 
lion-hunt in the British Museum. Babuschka, who is strong on his- 
tory, reminds me that the lion-hunter Sardanapalus was a good 
many centuries younger than Rameses. For the present, then, we 
must trace back the change of direction in Egyptian pictorial art 
to internal events, of which there was no lack in the period of 
Rameses. Here you are never tempted to question the authenticity 
of a decorative legend, or, as so often happens, to approach its 
pathos in a sceptical spirit. The wall suits you too well to have been 
made for you alone, and if the wall took a different course your 
history would turn out differently as well. Such a scepticism is 
sometimes hard to withstand in the Quattrocento, when richly 
attired groups with comely ladies and gentlemen contributed to the 
surface-decoration. In front of the Rameses pictures it does not 
occur to you to distrust their taste. The force of the symbolism is 
too strong, the arabesque is too unadorned, too explicit, too exclu- 
sively concerned with its linear play and too far removed from all 
probability to allow one to approach it with any reserve. On the 
main wall with the three pictures there is no compromise between 
history and poetry. Poetry reigns supreme. The real king is the 
one represented here, and the wall celebrates his triumph. 

With these wall-pictures the epoch realized an advance which 
marked out a worthy field for their reduced powers of formal crea- 


tion. We can imagine how it happened: it is the expression of an 
instinct which was no longer in a position to achieve the statuesque 
repose o divine sculpture and had to be content with animated 
surfaces. Unfortunately nothing is further removed from a period 
led by a Rameses than objective insight into its formal capabilities; 
and when by some lucky chance we meet now and then in a temple 
some gesture that rounds off its nakedness and can span the weak- 
ened tissue, we can be sure of finding four idiotic giants sitting 
outside, to counteract all its happier tendencies. 

When we were outside again Babuschka gave it up too; she 
was struck by the difference between one art and the other. The 
halo of the photograph was dispelled by the reality of our enjoy- 
ment of the wall-pictures. The better Rameses triumphed over the 
lesser one, with whom the sun made merry in the most merciless 
way. Incidentally, it struck me as highly doubtful whether the 
Egyptians themselves could have arrived at such a pictorial type. 
We ought to look to the early Babylonians who used motives of 
heroic action in relief long before the days of Rameses. 

The pedestals of the two colossi flanking the entrance bear friezes 
with slaves paying homage which might well frame the orna- 
mental display of the wall-pictures within: modest tapestry-strips 
that you take in as you go by. The colossi never once live up to 
their pretensions. They are wrecked at once by the insignificance of 
the facade which permits of no reliefs and least of all reliefs o 
so clumsy a sort and which can only hope to make us forget its 
destiny, which was to be a slice of cake, by keeping to the flattest 
possible surfaces. We felt it with particular force after our contact 
with the completely realized space within and increased our dislike 
for the founder of the temple. Naturally Rameses imagined that he 
was outdoing his predecessors. When Chefren wrested the Sphinx 
from the rock the stone of the desert became the material for sculp- 
ture and turned monumental. Any sculptor would do the same 
with his lump of clay or wax. Rameses was led astray by the moun- 

i86 EGYPT 

tain, and he bethought himself of using the material as a whim: 
an attempt which in one form or another comes naturally to all 
world-rulers accustomed to the colossal, and always ends by making 
them look small. 

There is no objection to rock-temples as such, especially in this 
climate; and they are in the most ancient tradition of Egypt, The 
first dynasties issue from the underworld; and I wonder if the 
shadow of the rock-temple does not hang over the whole of art 
down to Leonardo and Rembrandt. Creative fancy reposes in these 
dusky retreats, not in nature, as our generation used once to have 
it. Nature is the light in the distance, the boundary and the enemy, 
which we may not approach with impunity. Caves have something 
domestic about them; children make them out of chairs and travel- 
ing rugs. It is wonderful, huddling together underneath and feel- 
ing a sense of space. It begins with this sense of space. Let the out- 
side be as it will, men cling to the inside and want to huddle to- 
gether, play at school, and try their hand at communal existence. 
Here gold glitters, dwarfs vanish at the magician's behest, and the 
sanctuary envelops us. Why a fagade? Every facade casts a doubt 
as to the magic within. Incidentally the mountain has its own; and 
unless you convert it completely into columns and pediment it will 
always look like a hole in a cake even if you plant dolls a hundred 
yards high in front to protect it. 

Of course the fagade of a free-standing space is a different matter. 
Does it cease altogether to look as though it led to the domestic 
intimacies of a mountain even if that mountain were only the 
cliff-wall of a street? The Greeks, perhaps, were groping after a 
more transparent effect, with their many-columned temples set on 
mountains or in broad plains; possibly they wanted complete free- 
dom. It may have corresponded either to a more exalted spiritual 
tenor or a more sceptical disposition. Christianity returned to the 
mountain; that seems to me the most significant act of our civiliza- 


Mohammed informed us that Cook's steamer happened to be 
touching here that night in order to let its passengers see the rock 
temples lit up by electricity. We decided to spend the night here 
in order to profit by this occurrence. In the meanwhile we went 
to look at the other temple the Queen's and crossed over the 
yellow sand glacier between the two. The sun was grilling and 
drove us like lizards into the shade. Queen Nefretere contented 
herself with a more modest display. This time the colossi are only 
ten meters high; on the other hand they are not seated but stand 
to their full height. There are half a dozen all told. The sculpture 
is even rougher, but the figures divide up the surface better. 
Crooked strips of stone have been left standing between them; 
they run obliquely like the mountain and enclose the figures in 
niches, which helps the ornamental effect and gives at least a 
suggestion of architectonic construction. The interior is not up to 
that of the other temple. 

Mohammed knows all the Egyptian divinities. As he takes me 
for a savant he keeps his learning for the cook, who always trots 
beside him in the hope of bettering himself. His poor thick head 
obviously has a hard time remembering the names. He wants to be 
a guide. Mohammed is his uncle. 

Evening is the best photographer. As the shadows drove the light 
away the colossi lost their doll-like look and became big. The 
mountain drew back its outline and turned into a neutral back- 
ground. A facade now came into being. The tones grew richer, 
closed up the holes between the limbs, and the stone became plastic 
atmosphere. The sky arched a grotto of stars overhead. Babuschka 
remarked that it didn't matter at what time of day the show began; 
you had to make your arrangements accordingly After supper 
we went on shore' again. The sand held the warmth longer. 
Mohammed stayed with us. First came the post-boat from Wadi 
Haifa; except for a motor car with damaged coachwork it had 
nothing on board. We couldn't see a human being, hardly even a 

i88 EGYPT 

light; and alongside our nutshell it looked like a leviathan. Shortly 
before midnight the Cook steamer arrived, brilliantly lit up and 
carrying quantities of passengers. The electric light was turned 
on and Abu-Simbel was ablaze. We followed the swarm to the 
temple. It did not occur to one of the herd to stop a moment in 
front of the colossi on the facade. As they were in motion, on 
they moved. They found it quite natural that giants should be sit- 
ting here in front of a mountain, and all seemed to be in an equable 
frame of mind. 

It was worth waiting for. The dazzling electric light had a re- 
markable effect on the interior, I had only hoped it would make the 
pictures clearer and was prepared to set this advantage against the 
tastelessness which I expected, on the analogy of the fatal effect of 
electric light in cathedrals. It turned out quite differently. The 
room, which had been only partially effective in the afternoon with 
the light confined to the door, now filled out into an authentic 
whole. Not only was there no anachronism; one could even imagine 
that the ancient Egyptians had foreseen the fountain of light stream- 
ing from the ceiling and had only made the sun do as a substitute. 
The effect was extremely roomy and modern and comfortable: 
not at all temple-like, but mundane and gay. Our clothes were 
not inappropriate. Tail coats and white ties and decollete frocks 
and plenty of jewelry would have done still better; the bathing 
drawers of the ancient Egyptians were not in the least necessary. 
This actuality awakened by the light was remarkably fascinating; 
it was probably due to the geometrical regularity of the plan, with 
its massive forms, and also to the bold height. This in particular 
we had scarcely noticed in the afternoon. The lines of the pictures 
also became more resonant and the continuity of the composition 
could now be detected from some distance. That too was sub- 
ordinate to the spaciousness of the interior and accompanied the 
festivities with a dance of light. At times its coloring seemed a 
trifle hard. Curiously enough the colossi stood out from their 


pillars less than in the daytime. They played the part of caryatids, 
such as you find in our royal palace halls as well; they serve as 
masters o the revels and rise in grotesque grandeur above the whirl 
of the ball. The outstretched wings of colossal falcons decorated the 
central ceiling and stars glittered in the side panels. 

The return journey downstream went quicker. We recognized 
few of the places when we saw them again. The yellow sand-flats 
by the water looked fresher. Where they are worn away remarkable 
cubist forms emerge; often they are like angular fragments of 
women's bodies. The comparison with glaciers is quite inadequate, 
for yellow causes an entirely different activity. We put in at Kalab- 
sheh and visited the rock-temple of Bet el Wali. Again we found 
symmetrically disposed decorations with colored reliefs: sulphur 
yellow, sky blue, Pompeian red and a brighter blood-red. The 
plastic remains are worthless. The temple o Augustus near by is 
mainly under water and of no consequence. 

Only the dam and the black gallows-crane were immediately 
recognizable again. The gallows beckoned to us from afar with a 
kind of impudent familiarity which we couldn't shake off. Little 
had happened at the hotel except that unfortunately they had 
not been able to keep our room for us, which was annoying. The 
brachycephalous cook asked for something as a token of our regard 
for his services; and I cheerfully acceded to his wish, like a lord- 
chamberlain appointing a deserving firm purveyor-in-ordinary. In 
return he gave me a stone found in Nubia with natural tapestry 
patterns in the manner of Vaa de Velde. 


OUR parting with Assuan was a tragedy. Very likely we shall 
never get here again. Babuschka cried. Besides you have to get up in 
the night to reach Kom-Ombo in the morning. Kom-Ombo and 
Edfu had to be done in one day. Such arrangements are like one 
of those practical articles of furniture which have a drawer every- 
where but no shape and are therefore nonsensical on a journey 
like this. It was my fault. It struck me that we were merely vegetat- 
ing at Assuan which was undeniable- but nobody could stop us, 
and suddenly the idea came to me at twenty-four hours' notice. 
We sat opposite each other like boards in the hot compartment, 
with its threadbare plush, and never looked at each other. There 
wasn't any light either. Subsequently our arrangement was aban- 
doned, and the double event was not put into one day, for one 
drawer wouldn't work; and then came another dreary night. 

The engineer of the sugar-factory to whom Schacht had given us 
an introduction picked us up at Kom-Ombo station at seven o'clock 
in the morning; he was a quiet and very friendly Swiss named 
Ganter. Kom-Ombo consists of a station, a sugar-factory, and a 
temple. Like Abdul, Herr Ganter sees his family only at great 
intervals* The only things that abound here are sugar-cane and 
time. A donkey trotted cheerfully along the narrow-gauge track 
and brought us in a diminutive Pullman through the sugar-fields 



to the temple. Nearby lies the pumping-station o the factory. The 
temple abuts on the water like the piazza o St. Mark's. You could 
climb straight out of the Nile onto the terrace and reach the court 
of the sanctuary. This dates from Ptolemaic times; and its bowdler- 
izing of Egyptian forms, in the manner of the early days of the 
Ptolemaic regime, increased our uneasy morning mood. Besides 
this, Babuschka wouldn't come away and tacitly blamed me for 
the architecture, for whose decadence she held me responsible. The 
one consoling feature is the view of the river; but one ought not 
to come from Assuan, especially if one isn't in the mood for being 
consoled. A dark dining-room with dried crocodiles was equally 
incapable of captivating Babuschka. 

Much more interesting was the engine-house of the pumping- 
station with its big shining Diesel engines running without a sound. 
The cauldrons are heated with quantities of sugar-cane leaves which 
burn like tissue paper. If you look into the blaze for a while your 
eyes are dazzled, and you are glad to get out again into a milder 
climate. The workmen get a shilling's wages for a ten hour day's 
work and manage as best they can. For one that is sent away there 
are ten more there. You have to know how to deal with them; 
they are like women, said Ganter, but immediately corrected him- 
self and said children. 

In the afternoon to Edfu. The roosting-place, larger than that 
at Assuan, lies on the other side of the Nile and is utterly destitute 
of charm. A Greek inn gave us a friendly welcome; it was a vict- 
ualer's shop with a bar, behind whose cluttered array a dark-eyed 
sharp-featured face sized up the credit of the customers. Nearby in 
the dusk a winding stair, unpleasantly crowded with things, led 
up to two very simple and dirty guest-rooms. In one a Coptic 
family was sinking deeper and deeper into its own filth. The privy 
too, also of the Ptolemaic period and right opposite our room, stank 

"Goodness gracious!'* said Babuschka. 

i 9 2 EGYPT 

The Greek remained cool, obsessed by a time-table which prophe- 
sied no train in any direction for the rest of the day. His son, a 
lively young scamp of twelve, acted as waiter and practiced his 
languages on us. As soon as you wanted anything he dashed eagerly 
off and fetched you something wrong: first a glass of lemonade 
instead of washing water; and then, when I indicated something 
big, ever so big, he produced a syphon, for at this time of day he 
is asked only for drinks. Babuschka refused it. In such situations 
you ought to rise above things. I believe the washing basin was 
merely a farce. 

Even in more attractive hotel-conditions it is unlikely that you 
would come to satisfactory terms with the temple. Kom-Ombo 
would be enough to enlighten you about the Ptolemies; or Edfu 
without Kom-Ombo, which perhaps would have been still more 
practical Both together overdid the atmospheric effect; and I 
couldn't help noticing Babuschka's secret satisfaction, since she had 
been against the expedition from the very first. I did what I could. 
Without the reliefs the temple pylons would look quite stately 
and massive: yes, they might, only the reliefs are completely mean- 
ingless. They sprawl about on the great stones like lost souls who 
have missed their chance of resurrection. Abu-Simbel rises to classic 
heights by comparison, and Rameses alongside these Ptolemies be- 
comes one of the Pharaohs of the pyramids. None the less there is 
still something left. Women can't see it; women can only see what 
they have lost, and are not to be won over with compromises, 
especially when they are obliged to get up earlier than usual. The 
court has breadth. I stick up for the court. The court has grandeur; 
besides, who knows that we shan't have a nice time this evening 
when we go to see the German with the big estate. Unfortunately 
the colonnade and pylon have become separated. The court is 
expansive, but has no rhythm; and when there is no rhythm, you 
understand, the stone remains senseless material and we remain 
always and ever in a bad frame of mind. 


I try gently and patiently; but these degenerate pillars are fat, 
unapproachable proletarians with gaudy waistcoats over their 
paunches, and I can well believe that they are renowned for their 
negligence. We are what we are, each an epoch in himself. Herr 
Behn is Ptolemaic. The pictures on the columns and all over the 
walls, mythological advertisements, might have been machine- 
made; yet they were actually turned out by hand, carved and 
painted by diseased, ill-paid hands. 

These Ptolemies were the heirs of Alexander the Great, whom 
they glorified in Greece with academic flummery of almost intoler- 
able sickliness. They carried on the process more crudely and 
helped themselves in the early days to native forms with the same 
impudence as our copyists of the Renaissance. At that period, how- 
ever, when there was hardly any architecture left worth mention- 
ing, they produced sculpture as beautiful as the green head in Ber- 
lin; and for all we know this repellent waste of architecture may 
here and there conceal reliefs that bear comparison with earlier 
work. The preservation of parts in a formless whole strikes us 
in past ages much more strongly than today when we have long 
grown accustomed to find pearls in dung. In antiquity, one be- 
lieves, it was not necessary to bow and scrape. If ever this golden 
age really existed it must have been at the very beginning and can 
hardly have lasted more than a couple of dynasties. 

They took two hundred years building the temple of Edfu, and 
it plays an important part in the history of Egyptian monuments 
that is to say, in history as it is written by our historians. Edfu 
is not this or that, but the most complete temple in the land; there- 
fore it is much esteemed by the learned and Baedeker gives it two 
stars. Hence the journey by the night train and Babuschka's ami- 
able mood. What do the learned really think about complete- 
ness? It seems to me of decisive importance in the case of Diesel 
engines, washing-basins, last testaments and limbs, but of merely 
relative importance in the case of works of art; and at home we 

194 EGYPT 

have so far emancipated ourselves from it that nobody any longer 
thinks of placing Rembrandt's Anatomy at Amsterdam on a lower 
plane than other Dutch pictures with the same motif because it has 
been damaged by fire. Possibly the claims of sculpture and painting, 
though restricted enough, are a few miles in advance of those of 
architecture; still we should not give a brand new baroque church 
the preference over a dignified Romanesque cathedral because the 
latter entirely lacked its towers. What is the use of the complete- 
ness of Edfu? To make us see how the Ptolemies tackled their 
religious hocus-pocus or to argue back from this to earlier hocus- 
pocus? You have to deal with those unsavory details like the failings 
of your neighbors, in an indulgent spirit, so long as they do not 
imperil the common good. But if you have to make a night journey 
on their account, your tolerance dries up. A Zoser, a Chefren, our 
Family, and all works that help us to build up our own history 
ought to have two hundred, three hundred stars before we can 
think of giving Edfu the smallest bracket. I cannot imagine what 
value you can attach to judgments based on Edfu. For people who 
look for Europe in Egypt this value is as nothing compared with 
the risk of satiety. If he arrives at such completeness as Edfu can 
furnish, man will have reached the zero-point of observation and 
have converted into speculation all that he ever possessed or could 
possess in the way of an emotion. Then he might as well put on 
the bathing-drawers of the ancient Egyptians and disclaim his 
mother tongue. Just such an Egyptologist was my brother, the iron- 
founder, who in the middle of Hamlet could never stop construct- 
ing machines, with the idea of substituting mechanical means for 
this accursed hand-labor. Only alcohol permitted him a little re- 
laxation; and then he became sentimental, with devastating effect. 
In the evening we dined on the other shore with the German 
count who manages a solitary but profitable plantation here among 
the palm-trees. As he is an English subject the war has left him 


unmolested. Our conversation was courteous and polished. He pro- 
vided us with excellent Russian cigarettes from London. 

The beds of our Greek were more endurable than we had dared 
to expect. There was an unpleasant moment next morning when 
one of Babuschka's rings fell behind the washstand. As I was 
trying to move the thing it came loose, and caverns in the style of 
the crocodile-chamber were disclosed. Our Ptolemaic host took us 
to task as in the fairy-tale, and we resolved to visit no more temples 
of this period. 


MISERABLE alleys full of sleepy natives lead from the railway sta- 
tion to the Nile, but then it becomes smart. The esplanade along 
the river, past the temple columns to the Winter Palace is a real 
Promenade des Anglais. Here the boats put in; here you show 
yourself and do what you want, and there is always something 
doing. Yesterday the High Commissioner arrived on his yacht, 
and everything was a-flutter with gayety. It is the end of January, 
the height of the season* Luxor equals luxury. Should we like to 
buy fly-flaps too? The rascal noticed it at once; very well, here 
goes! Newsboys, cigarette-sellers, shopkeepers, donkeys, rubber-tired 
carts, motors. What luck that Abdul has just washed our white 
things. The Behns are there, too: it's pathotic. A whole cavalcade of 
Englishmen on camels saddled in feudal style: private camels, of 
course. One gentleman has a dream of a turban made of cream 
silk with tassels. Nothing much in the way of women, however 
smart they may be, though the one with the green veil . . . isn't 
she the one from the Cataract with the thick nose? Merciful 

Next to the esplanade, placed on lower ground, are the columns 
with the swelling vase-shaped capitals, astonishingly large and 
solemn and silent. By this tactful arrangement you are on the same 
level You walk past them, follow with your eye the nice French- 



woman, and the Englishman with the turban, and the general 
glitter, but never look at the columns, for they won't run away. 
O course we shall give them due attention, for they are a different 
affair from Kom-Ombo or Edfu; for the moment, however, it's 
more amusing to flit about and play at being at Nice. Babuschka is 
always wanting to turn back and stop a minute or two at the land- 
ing-stage. Really the people aren't so tremendously elegant, after all. 
A couple or two, I daresay; but not on the whole, as we had 
thought at first. There's always something amiss; with luck you 
may find one in a hundred. Fat people can't be really distinguished: 
that is clear. 

Behind, in the hotel, you can see nothing but the great pillars 
with a bit of white in between, and streamers. 

We have come down to the Nile and are staying at the only 
hotel with a garden that directly adjoins the river. It is a lovely 
garden with brilliant bushy red-flowering trees, which have com- 
plicated names: a seductive red with a good deal of lilac in it, 
which would look vulgar in any other material. In the two trees 
by the way out to the Nile are a couple of little monkeys who 
snatch your watch out of your waistcoat pocket. Our company is 
mixed and the cook is mediocre, but we have got the best view of 
the other bank. Seen from the esplanade even the mountains have 
the outlines of Nice. The main mass of the hilly range lies exactly 
opposite; in its valleys lie the temples and tombs of the city of the 
dead. The stone is often stepped in parallel upright rows which 
resemble narrow Gothic windows and appear to open up galleries 
into the heart of the mountain. Rock-tombs immediately cross your 
mind. In front of the mountain the fertile land, here much wider 
than at Assuan, spreads out its many tones of green, and still closer 
is a very considerable beach with beautiful sand. In the morning 
the landing-place on the farther shore, opposite the esplanade, 
swarms with black dots and dashes: tourists, horses, donkeys, drivers 
and carts. On the days when you can go and see the tomb of 

ig8 EGYPT 

Tutankhamen there is a particular crowd, A couple of white tents 
stand on the sand. Houseboats and dahabiyehs lie near the shore; 
at night their windows are ablaze with lights. People keep arriving. 
Luxor is full We have trouble in getting used to it and wish we 
were back at Assuan. The only thing that reminds us of it is a 
sakiyeh near at hand with precisely the same tone. We always have 
to pass it when we take the footpath along the upper shore towards 
the esplanade. An ox drives the wheel; and you can only get past 
when he is at the inner side of the circle. 

Our windows look on to the overgrown garden at another hotel 
which is not in use. Achmed, the snakecharmer, gives his demon- 
strations in this garden for ten piastres a person. He goes round 
and conjures up the beasts. If he smells a snake for it seems that 
he tracks them with his nose he sets to work energetically and 
raises his voice. The formulas are hammered into the snake; if it 
has any ears at all you can well believe that the military tone of 
command gets across right enough. In the meanwhile he gropes 
about in the hole and fishes out a cobra quite a yard and a half 
long. He lets it run where it will; then at the word of command 
it stands up straight like a soldier. As for the scorpion it never 
moved when he shouted at it, but let him catch hold of it and 
lay quite still in his hand like a sleeping child. Its sting was a 
pretty blonde color. Afterwards he laid hands on a horned snake, 
for which even he felt a certain respect, seeing that its bite can 
dispose of a bull as easily as winking. He hung it round his neck, 
and at his command it jumped into the basket with the cobra. 
So did the scorpion. Herr Alborg from Hamburg maintained that 
to judge by this display the garden must be pretty well full of such 
creatures, and that it was enough to give us cold feet, as they say in 
Hamburg, our room being so close. We fell into a longish conversa- 
tion on this subject and on the restaurant of that late lamented 
Hamburg genius, little Pfordte. I dreamed of snakes that night. 
Our room is on the ground floor. The old walls that divide us from 


the snake garden are not necessarily impenetrable, and we always 
sleep with the windows open. It is well-known that snakes love the 
warmth of the body; and in India, according to our much-traveled 
Hamburg friend, the only way of getting rid of these unwanted 
sleeping companions is to place a saucer of milk on the ground 
near where you are lying. In the middle of the night I got up and 
felt for the window in the dark, to close it; when I happened to 
tread on the remains of an orange I had a very unpleasant feeling. 
When the snake-charmer's performances were repeated it became 
clear that the man always used the same animals; and now we 
began to abuse him. He arranged them beforehand and kept a 
good look-out for them. Babuschka called him a second ]ger t while 
I agreed with Herr Alborg, who preferred to regard it as humbug 
in the interests of our safety. These discussions about the snake- 
charmer lasted some days. He wasn't really a Jger, however; they 
were real snakes, at least, with poisoned fangs that had been 
vouched for by a French zoologist from the Sorbonne, and every- 
body had seen the scorpion's sting. Monsieur Beranger thought it 
possible that the beasts had been doped with alcohol, but was by 
no means prepared to deny Achmed's hypnotic powers. Achmed 
had been repeatedly tested on clear ground; and the natives used 
him as their master of the snake hounds. In the garden he cheated 
merely for demonstration purposes and for the convenience of 
travelers who couldn't be put to the trouble of accompanying him 
on his serious hunting expeditions. In spite of the professor from 
the Sorbonne Babuschka refused to be convinced and Frau Alborg, 
too, remained sceptical Women don't make distinctions. 

THE PILLARS OF LUXOR. We pass them every day, hurrying or 
loitering, irritated or contented; and they stand there without 
bothering about us, just as on the first day. Everything else has 
changed, everything else talks to us. We have grown used to the 
flutter and glitter, and we are no longer spectators on the promenade 

200 EGYPT 

but flutter and glitter with it. The houses, the shops, the trees accom- 
pany us, and so, o course, do the people; and we have learnt a 
conversational tone in which to jest with them or share in their jests. 
We come here on our own errands the donkeys for yonder and 
the carriage for Karnak or quite simply to wander about, and 
it is all quite nice and familiar. But the pillars stand there, turn- 
ing the cold shoulder to our lives, a little lower than we are; and 
they take on none of the patina. Babuschka thinks that that is al- 
ways the way with columns that stand by themselves; but that 
won't work, for you have only to think of the famous group of 
columns below the Capitol, to which you find yourself telling jokes 
on your very first day in Rome. To be sure, columns can't skip or 
play the piano, but the immovable silence of those pillars at Luxor 
is abnormal. I mean, of course, the big ones with the vase-like 
heads. The others forming the court, the reed-colurnns, behave quite 
differently. The inaccessibility of the big ones even extends to their 
refusal to be utilized as architecture. The architrave on the vase- 
heads that might turn them into architecture is a disturbing acces- 
sory. Since a square stone contradicting their form has been placed 
as an abacus between the capital and the architrave the columns 
merely carry a degrading makeshift. You never see the columns 
without becoming annoyed at the useless architrave. They are not 
there for the same purpose, you say, without being able, however, 
to say what their purpose really is. They are because they are: an 
end in themselves. Neither Amenophis III, who put them up, nor 
any of his successors was able to complete the hall as planned. The 
columns outgrew their purpose, as one day painting was to diverge 
from its original intention. Expression parts company with utility 
and becomes an unapproachable symbol. Such a state of things is 
rare in building. Architecture has gone through other gestures of 
repudiation menacing earth-works, defiant castles, fantastic jagged 
ruins on steep mountains. Compared with this indifference every- 
thing turns to mere picturesque adornment of nature. The colossi 


o Abu-Simbel were large and uncouth, but simply on that account 
they demanded our attention, wanted us to call them colossal and 
then entered into agreeable conversation: human like ourselves, only 
exaggerated, poor devils. The two colossi of Memnon in the fields 
yonder, the famous oracles, still talk; and because they are oracles, 
they talk ceremoniously, but intelligibly. Once, we are told, one of 
them used to sing as well. Their lonely position in the wide plain 
has nothing otherwise remarkable about it. The romance of ruins 
breathes round them, and all the tales that travelers have told about 
them for thousands of years help the effect. The pillars of Luxor 
are inhumanly quiet. The term colossus applies here for the first 
time, though they are not really so very big. Their size does not 
depend on any abnormal construction but on the intensity of their 
abstraction. This prevents your getting in touch. There are similar 
pillars at Karnak. There they have been caught and tamed and 
built into a gigantic hall, the wonder of the world, but only after 
they had been hacked about and severely tattooed and castrated. 
Here they stand free, the complete expression of a power slowly 
developed through endless ages, a peak and a culmination, just as 
the pyramids are a peak and a culmination in their own way. The 
pyramid, on the other hand, is ideally accessible for all its abstract- 
ness, even if it needs the desert as a background and if the beings 
with whom it converses intimately are the sunbeams. Superficial 
relations are vouchsafed to us as well, and we make bold to take 
advantage of them. In those degenerate vase-pillars, on the other 
hand, there is something grand and medieval. 

It is curious how much nearer we feel to the early temples at 
Sakkara. In the Zoser temple, which was built a millennium and a 
half earlier than Luxor, we see an eminently human and natural 
and a marvelously cultivated humanity in full spate. We see a way 
of life adapted to practical ends and to dignity at one and the same 
time and with every possibility open before it; and what rejoices us 
is precisely its objective development from wood and brick archi- 

202 EGYPT 

tecture to building in stone, its diligent adjustment of itself to its 
surroundings. They build their world out of their temple as naively 
as a family of Robinsons: not cast up on an island, however, but 
blessed with the good fortune of being domiciled there. A con- 
tinuously equable climate protects its stream of development and 
prevents wrong turnings that might lead to isolation. It is only one 
symptom of this process that the ribbed pillars, which are not yet 
columns, furnish the prototype of Doric. So near us is this first 
piece of history; so unapproachable, for all their beauty, remain 
the columns of Luxor. I can imagine people thinking them more 
beautiful than any detail in the older temples; the Greeks very likely 
would have thought so. They admired the vase-pillars, but they 
seized hold of the fluted ones; the one was beautiful and complete, 
but the other they could live with and develop in their own 

Luxor and Thebes are the setting for the last act of Egyptian 
architecture. Their highest dreams of magnificent stone-carving are 
here realized. This unexampled display, which coincides with the 
victorious campaigns of the eighteenth dynasty to secure world- 
mastery, paralyzed their creative powers. Gorged, sated and denuded 
of poetic emotion, fantasy restricts itself to the manifold appearance 
of things and renounces order. The temple of Luxor becomes the 
scene of its distraction. Close beside that solitary double colonnade 
lies the court with its many reed-columns. The two types of column 
are opposed to each other like the Middle Ages and modern times. 
The proud abstraction of the vase-columns, with their disdain of 
structural considerations, is resolved into the type of the reed- 
column by an extremely logical process of rationalism which again 
demands that we shall revise our conceptions of ancient Egypt. 
Here the modern ethnologist could certainly detect the working of 
its mechanism. The shaft is composed of tubes which, to all ap- 
pearances, could be cast or turned out of any material. Stone and 
stone-technique are the last that would occur to one. The tapering 


tube-capital fits the abacus with the accuracy o a smooth stopper; 
and the square architrave rests just as neatly on top. The parts of a 
machine could hardly fit truer. What fills us with amazement is 
not the precise workmanship, which is displayed even at the earliest 
period, but the fact that the eye must be made to feel the need for 
precision. The sole problem of this mechanistic structure is to sup- 
port, and this function is pursued to the exclusion of all artistic 
considerations, particularly an eye to proportion. Form is appar- 
ently a result of functional efficiency alone. That it was originally 
derived from the flora of the country is a historical fact which does 
not concern the eye; and what the historian might ascribe to a 
recollection of this origin for example, the tapering of the com- 
posite shafts, which does not correspond to a purely static purpose 
we should still describe as functional, though in spite of our 
sense of the total mechanism, our knowledge of mechanical detail 
is fragmentary and perhaps misleading. We should not be in the 
least surprised to see such composite shafts employed in an indus- 
trial building set out with engines and all manner of apparatus. 
The engineer who showed us round would take pains to explain 
to our lay intelligence how the choice of these rather than any 
other forms was determined by considerations of expansion and con- 
traction, thrust and stress. 

Both types vase-columns and these reed-shafts were evolved 
at the same time in the reign of the same Amenophis III, and the 
court with the reed columns was tacked onto the other part which 
had remained unfinished. Then Rameses, the world-ruler of the 
next dynasty, added the bombastic introductory pylons and the 
colossal pillar-statues. Such heavy-handed jokes are problems no 
more; they have none of the bold elevation of the earlier parts, but 
submit to the perfectly natural decline of world-power accom- 
panied by shawms and trumpets. In those iniquitous days the en- 
trance to the temple was sacked. The lower part of the left pylon 

204 EGYPT 

and half of one colossal statue are stuck in the ground. This looks 
very comic: the colossus in the mud-bath. 

From here the giant avenue o sphinxes once led to Karnak: a 
distance which today takes half an hour's drive at least. The pro- 
vincial's jaw must have dropped as he estimated the king's power 
by the number of the sphinxes. The arrangement reminds me a 
bit of those international exhibitions in Paris, though it is more 
grandiose and less cheerful. Near the colossus in the mud-bath the 
Mohammedans have insinuated a mosque shaped like a mast-head 
which has a South German look about it. ... Lousy children 
shouted for bakshish, egged on by a dignified Bedouin who didn't 
see us. 

The medieval massiveness of such pylons is not to be underrated, 
but ought not to be underlined with colossal statues. Gradually the 
slightest colossus gets on one's nerves. 

KARNAK. When I saw a picture of the great avenue of rams 
leading to Karnak for the first time, years ago, I thought how 
wonderful, how it made one's heart leap, how one longed to be 
there! Something of the march past stirred one's blood and set 
everything with legs in motion. Now I was approaching the en- 
trance between the rams with Babuschka. Ah, to be sure . . . the 
avenue of rams! The wings at the theater by daylight have a fatal 
effect; and that is actually what you think of here, with all those 
stone beasts planted there and no longer in line. The infamously 
restored pedestals are disillusioning; it must have been a bit differ- 
ent in antiquity. 

Inside, the barbarism of the restorers exceeds all bounds at times 
and is finally at one with the destructive frenzy of hostile successors 
to the throne of Pharaoh who were jealous of their predecessors. 
Probably the effect of the great pillar hall would be better if it 
were still a ruin. Whether we should have called it one of the 
wonders of the world if it were preserved in its old state as Rameses 


II. left it is another matter. The columns, especially the smaller 
ones, approximate to the contour o a liver-sausage. Often you 
get amusing diagonal glimpses, if the fragmentary windows in 
the central nave catch your eye, but your pleasure is never un- 
mixed. The earlier parts are more interesting, with their collection 
of every sort of column-type: reed-columns with more numerous 
and smaller reeds, relatively better than those in the temple at 
Luxor since nearer to nature or rather, to put it better, further 
from the machine. The obelisk of Queen Hatshepsut, blocked out 
by her angry brother, is graceful: the same applies to all the traces 
of her activity at Karnak. Seen together, however, they give no 
pleasure. The queer part is the one with the so-called tent-columns, 
whose capitals consist of upturned baskets and whose shafts taper a 
little too obviously at the bottom. Then there are the columns with 
the beautiful reliefs and the especially grand double architraves. 
The ceiling is painted sky-blue with orange-gold stars. There is 
still a temple, or temple-annex, with fine sixteen-sided columns with 
a solid abacus, on wrongly restored bases. We seldom get further; 
for we seldom divide up Karnak properly, as sensible people do in 
any museum, but imagine that as Karnak is a temple we must 
take in the total effect. In the middle there is a chapel of marvelous 
material I fancy, pink granite. The chapel contains a shrine, and 
itself stands like a shrine in another temple, which again is part 
of a temple. On every side is a sacred sea of dismal neglect. 

This confusion does not disturb the intellect with a gift for 
concentration. On the contrary it excites it like a problem of higher 
mathematics and exercises its highest powers. An acquaintance of 
mine, an architect from Dessau, who hadn't much time, explored 
Karnak in one morning and drew us the plan of the whole at 
lunch afterwards. Not a corner was missing. As I complained of 
the confusion he smiled as though these disturbances were purely 
a subjective affair and said that my interests lay rather in the 
sphere of literature. In the afternoon he did the temple of Luxor, 

206 EGYPT 

the Rarnesseum and Der-el-bahri, and in the evening he recited 
them all by heart. Till nearly midnight he told us funny stories 
about Jews. At last I could stand it no more and raised my lip like 
the cook on our motor-boat when he wanted to mew. 

THE TOMBS. The best thing about the Tombs of the Kings is 
the ride there. The tempo is quicker than at Assuan, for you do not 
ride alone and naturally on account of the crowd alone there is 
every incentive for being in advance of the rest. Tutankhamen's 
tomb is the Medici chapel and the Sistine, with a dash of Lourdes, 
I say Lourdes, because immediately in front of us was a very old 
lady in gray, evidently seriously ill, who was dragged down the 
narrow stairs with endless difficulty. Close to, she looked older 
still and kept her eyes tight shut. On her gray hat, which must 
have dated from the Middle Kingdom, she wore an absurd nodding 
bird. In the tomb they placed her on the wooden raiL She imme- 
diately opened her eyes mouse-colored eyes with yellow specks 
and a quavering sound came from her mouth. As I was fascinated 
by the extraordinary bird on her hat and the space was painfully 
overcrowded, the only thing I saw in Tutchen's tomb was a placard 
which told you in fat letters that photographing was forbidden. 
When the gray thing was carried up the stairs she quavered gently 
again and seemed to me to be pleased; round her eyes, with their 
yellow specks, dark blue rims had formed whose color appeared 
to have been borrowed from Tutchen's enamel. They hoisted the 
gray thing into the landau, and the bird shook like one possessed. 

We visited various tombs and were struck by the modern tone of 
most of the decorations. In the later ones for instance in the richly 
decorated abode of the remains of Rameses VI. a colloquial style 
reminiscent of our own jeunes becomes common. The curved 
ceiling over the vault, treated as usual in black and white, made one 
think of English book-illustrations. Earlier examples are not so 
choice. The tomb of the second Amenophis, which is much more 


highly colored than most of the others, seemed rather feebler in 
decorative effect* There are many incomprehensible motifs, stop* 
gap devices of an illustrator who had to replace his lack of formal 
sense by an insubstantial mysticism. The colored parts are unusually 
commonplace and the corpse lit up by electric light is about on 
the same plane. Over the vault of Seti L is a long black and white 
procession led by a fat hippopotamus woman waddling on her 
hindquarters. Behind her a crocodile wanders along on its tail, rests 
its paws on the hump-back of the hippopotamus-lady and cranes its 
stupid muzzle over her head. They're all proper gods, of course. 
We feel about them as we do with certain bits of Ibsen which were 
once dramatic and have now become comic. The hippopotamus- 
lady's paunch and her breasts like little sausages would be some- 
thing for Th. Heine* In the tomb of the third Rameses, where the 
color seems to be very well preserved, the electric light gave out, 
and in the tomb of Rameses L I stumbled on the confounded stairs 
and strained various parts of my anatomy. Here we met Mr. 
Coolman; otherwise it was not rewarding. 

On the way home we talked of Sakkara and my bones hurt. 
Greater and greater crowds kept arriving and the mass streamed 
back. Every moment you had to turn aside to let the motors and 
carriages pass. This tomb-business is a heaven-sent sensation to give 
the Coolmans of this world an appetite for their lunch. One would 
like to trample them all underfoot and add them to the kings in 
order to be spared the necessity of giving way to them henceforth. 

The tombs of the officials of the eighteenth dynasty at Sheik 
Abd-el-Kurna lie prettily on the hill above the Ramesseum and 
their more modest arrangements are preferable. Most of the pic- 
tures are not reliefs but simply painting; though occasionally, as 
in the tomb of Ramose, you find both techniques on different walls 
of the same room, which spoils the ensemble. Ramose, vizier under 
Amenophis IV., contrived a hall in front of his vault with tightly 
packed-columns of feeble construction. These have been recon- 

ao8 EGYPT 

strutted in an entirely superfluous way; for which purpose they 
have used plaited or bent wood models like clothes dummies. Ever 
since whenever I see a reed-column of the later period I am obliged 
to think of these crinolines. 

There seem to have been two styles of painting in the eighteenth 
dynasty: one stiff, archaistic, and at times almost rustic; the other 
elegant and courtly with delicately articulated drawing and a taste- 
ful palette. The chronological distinction escapes me; perhaps it 
cannot be determined. They both existed side by side, but the 
courtly style seems to have oudasted the other. The decoration, 
esteemed on acount of its good preservation, in the tomb of Nacht, 
who lived under one of the early kings of the eighteenth dynasty, 
belongs rather to the more primitive genre. The pretty girls with 
musical instruments look much more attractive in the colored repro- 
ductions, which we saw all over the place, than in reality. The 
elegant style still survived when architecture had long since been 
stripped of all its charm. The tomb I liked best was that of the 
prince Sennofer who was in charge of the gardens under Ameno- 
phis IL The big figures have the charm of good popular picture- 
books. There are pretty borders with vine-clusters on the roughly 
carved ceiling, where the irregular ups and downs in the limestone 
give it the appearance of a roof made of leaves. 

On the way back we looked in for a moment at the Ramesseum. 
One can't stand this expansive opulence for long. Rameses towers 
over the whole place. He and his successors have dug themselves 
in so thoroughly here that only furtive remains of earlier genera- 
tions have survived. Rameses has brutalized Thebes. Even before 
him there were big buildings here, great formal symphonies which 
did not halt at the conventional limits prescribed for architecture. 
Thutmosis III., the builder of Luxor, stands in relation to the 
pyramid builders as Beethoven to Bach. You already feel the retreat 
has begun. You meet with excesses, and the rhythm runs up to a 
shriek. But the visionary only lets himself be carried away after a 


gradual raising of the temperature, and in his last excesses the whole 
process of development swings with him. His isolation is due not 
to a conscious caprice but to the dramatic development of an ex- 
perience. He does not wish to break with tradition and leaves no 
stone unturned in order to get back into it. Rameses, on the other 
hand, is the romantic degenerate who finds his normal method of 
procedure in excesses and leaves the classic mean with nothing 
but a rigorously restricted pretence at mastery. He is aiming at 
something quite different from harmony. He wants to thrill himself 
and the rest with his egotistic lusts and pays no heed to the flood. 
It hits architecture harder than music; and the building mania of 
Rameses is dominated by a bandmaster who turns a concert of 
strings into a brass band. The rock facade of Abu-Simbel is the 
climax; there they have tried to convert an entire mountain into 
an orchestra. But this illusion, too, whose origin remained wrapped 
in obscurity at Abu-Simbel, is anticipated time and again by the 
mistakes and the strokes of genius of many illustrious precursors. 
The sphinx by the pyramids of Gizeh, the isolated improvisation 
of infallible artistry, was the beginning and a constant source of 
temptation. The temple of Hatshepsut, the flower in the tangle of 
Theban buildings, marks a further stage of the error. 


AT first I was annoyed at the fluent way in which Babuschka 
pronounced Queen Hatshepsut's mouthful of a name; for I found 
it difficult. Incidentally no one has the least idea how it sounded 
originally as we have to supply the vowels. Finally I, too, became 
fluent with Hatshepsut: indeed, more fluent than with all the rest 
of the world of body and stone in and around Thebes. Towards the 
end of our time we went nearly every day to Der-el-Bahri where 
the temple stands, and this coming and going gradually dispelled 
the whole flutter and glitter of Luxor, 

Hatshepsut belongs to the good first third of the eighteenth 
dynasty. She was the sister and consort, pre- and co-regent of the 
same Thutmosis of Luxor; was maltreated by him; and even after 
her death seems to have given him some excuse for his base con- 
duct. She built this temple far from Luxor, a sort of Sans Souci, 
near the jagged valley of the Tombs of the Kings, Very likely you 
could draw inferences as to the queen's perverse ways from this 
Sans Souci temple just as in other circumstances you can detect 
the perversities of Frederick II. at Potsdam. Babuschka declares 
that there is a novel about Hatshepsut and has written off for it 
to the nice bookseller at Cairo. I don't hanker after it, A picture 

dances before me, a costume-piece in soft pastel shades, whose 



subject I should like to preserve completely transposed into pic- 
torial shape. 

The temple is arranged in terraces within a large cleft shut in on 
three sides by the steeply rising mountain-side. The cleft is one of 
those curious features that may occur at any moment in this coun- 
try. Here, as everywhere else in Egypt, the suggestiveness does not 
reside in the outlines alone, whose originality may well be sur- 
passed by the rocky mountains of other lands, but in the singular 
contrast afforded by the river and the desert which gives this beauti- 
ful disposition of space. This expands here into a great natural 
structure open to the Nile but closed on the other sides, like an 
extensive court. The protected situation already invites you to 
repose. You feel safe here between these lofty walls; and it was 
natural that a queen who felt herself surrounded by enmity should 
here set up her special sanctuary. 

The terraces bring one to Sans Souci. The last terrace leans up 
against the background of the great rock wall and the inside of the 
mountain shields the holy of holies. The three terraces were meant 
to lead you up to the gigantic background. This is the queen's 
idea: a truly romantic idea ennobled by the art with which it is 
carried out. All the same, one can see how this led to Abu-SimbeL 

Photographs of the temple leave out a good deal, especially the 
damaged condition of many of its parts. Of the exterior only a small 
piece is actually preserved in a complete state. The rest was flung 
together and restored without loving care. The originals of the 
beautiful polygonal columns are standing only in the fragmentary 
side wing. But far more serious is the way in which the photo- 
graphs distort nature's share. The rock wall in the foreground is 
immeasurably more intact than one would guess. The temple 
would gain by a somewhat lower power of resistance on the part 
of nature. 

You must imagine how it once looked. Today, the restricted 
space occupied by the steps outside is displeasing. This is caused to 

212 EGYPT 

some extent by its damaged condition, for now the whole design 
is actually limited to the colonnades running parallel to the rocky 
wall, and is merely legendary in the parts which jut out at right 
angles to the rocky wall and create the impression o depth. The 
colonnades running lengthwise naturally enhance the effect of flat- 
ness and do not stand out sufficiently from their background. 
Nature threatens to undo the work of man. Originally the terraces 
were sharply defined right angles and the steps went much farther 
onto the level. There were the famous gardens, for whose trees 
Hatshepsut sent expeditions to far-oflf lands, as we learn from the 
scenes inside; and these gardens which have now vanished may 
have been a slight help. The avenue of sphinxes is also missing; it 
began on the edge of the cultivated land and led up to the temple. 
But above all there existed in the days of Hatshepsut the old temple 
dating from the Middle Kingdom, hard by the new. It has now 
almost entirely disappeared. The close proximity of two buildings 
of different ages is always noticeable; and in this case it may have 
increased the sense of depth as well. With that assumption, and 
with the most favorable allowance made for all circumstances which 
agreeably distract our attention from the original layout, we are 
still far from wresting art from nature and nature from art. I can 
almost believe that if every element were preserved intact the dis- 
crepancy would be even more striking. 

No human building material can approach the structure of the 
rock-wall with its vertical cuts at equal intervals above. You can sing 
its praises, write epics and heroic dramas around it; but it is im- 
possible to add a stone to this stony structure. The verticals re- 
semble the bodies of primeval beings who rest their lion-paws on 
the plain and whose heads have been annihilated in some desert 
catastrophe. Beside those beings the terraces and trees of the royal 
garden and the sphinxes of the avenue can only lead a diminutive 
and shadowy existence; and gracefully as the temple might rise and 
brilliant in effect as all its details might be, it remained like a 

ART 213 

chirping musical-box overwhelmed by the rushing fugues of an 
organ. Hatshepsut was captivated by the old temple which she 
found already standing there, but which did not seem to her to 
be big enough for the cleft. If the reconstruction of this temple in 
Schafer's book is correct, the arrangement with the pyramidal 
peak as the centerpiece had the advantage over the new temple 
for it demanded from its situation merely protection and not a 
support or only very little support for its form. It would have 
told better at a greater distance from the rocky wall. The view 
of the valley also captivated Hatshepsut. The plain stretches away 
from the cleft as though sped forward into space by the weight of 
the rocky wall, takes in the broad luxuriant strip of green, and is 
checked in the distance by the handsome profile of the mountains 
on the other bank. One can sympathize with the queen's love for 
the place. The mistakes in her plan are of the same sort that 
Rameses made two centuries later in the rock-facade of Abu- 
Simbel; but they point to a much more attractive mentality. You 
can never accuse so charming a person of the proletarian megalo- 
mania of the Ramessides; it is rather the unreflecting delight in a 
happy accident, the dilettantism of a queen in a mood for play but 
unable to satisfy it. She embarked on her mistaken path with grace. 
All objections are silenced as soon as you set foot on the lowest 
slope and no longer see the natural surroundings but merely the 
temple itself. Those two long slopes that rise gently in two stages at 
the center of the terraces lend wings to an organic, lucid plan and 
a form carefully contrived in every detail. After so many idle 
and unnecessary cyclopean figures it is a comfort to find pillars 
without colossi, cleanly carved columns without reliefs. Well- 
brought-up people lived here; they never tried to flummox their 
guests with tactless behavior. The columns, mostly sixteen-sided 
with square bases and caps, have that decency that the Greeks took 
as their model, and are simpler and smoother than any Greek detail. 
The exterior of the temple was white; inside the visitor was met 

2i 4 EGYPT 

with a cheerful and festive display. The wall-paintings have suf- 
fered most noticeably in the queen's own day from the jealousy of 
her brother and spouse, who after her death removed the oft-recur- 
ring figure of Hatshepsut. It is worth noting that wherever he re- 
places her portrait by his own, and the context permits, court cere- 
monial suppresses for the nonce the difference in sex between the 
ruler and his consort. Where, however, the motif does not allow 
this change of persons, the place on the wall remains empty and 
erased. In the holy of holies Christian monks have done their work 
in later ages. If no violence has been done to them the colors in 
several of the rooms are so well preserved that the eye finds no 
difficulty in extracting pleasure from them: an esthetic pleasure 
devoid of an archaeological alloy. 

The symmetry that strikes us at Abu-Simbel was a familiar 
matter to the painters who worked here, and was exercised with a 
refinement of coloring compared with which all the Rameses re- 
liefs are merely primitive ornament. Probably the genre had long 
been in existence. Perhaps it was already half-forgotten, like the 
style of the Empire and the Bourbons today; and some clever mem- 
ber of the queen's entourage probably not a professional artist, but 
a courtier of taste who knew and shared the queen's likings re- 
vived the old forms as happens today also in lucky instances and 
adapted them to this special occasion, less because of their original 
intrinsic importance than for their decorative merit. Such, at all 
events, is the impression their agile spirit makes upon us. These 
wall-paintings are not childishly inventive like the scenes in the 
tombs at Sakkara; rather, they are eclectic and in spite of this 
or really because of this they are attractive, since their eclecticism 
corresponds with a singularly seductive cosmopolitan existence, a 
kingly or rather queenly amiability. 

As in Sakkara we can again detect the man behind the picture. 
Not only do the colors and lines please us, but also the people 
who delighted in the creation of these things and who at the same 


time experienced the enjoyment, familiar to us, of being pioneer 
connoisseurs. How good this amiability seemed, how refreshing, 
after our hunt for something grateful to the eye among the endless 
distractions of Karnak! It was just as if you were at home, with your 
calendar accounted for to the very last minute, and some friend 
suddenly prevailed upon you in the midst of your harassed existence 
to set out for Potsdam or Saint-Cloud or Hampton Court and you 
left your hundred and one reviews and became for the afternoon a 
grand seigneur or territorial prince who had never in his whole life 
been obliged to worry about anything but making the fullest possi- 
ble use of contemporary amenities. For only one afternoon, of 
course. It all evaporated at five o'clock next morning, and it was 
heavenly to return once more to your hundred and one reviews. 
Incidentally you would find that you would be spared quite half 
your labor. 

The building and equipment of the temple are the chief motifs of 
its decoration. It begins on the walls near the first slope with rows 
of workmen; and the nearer you get to the inner rooms, the richer 
the development becomes. A superb yellow, brighter and more 
luminous than the yolk of an egg and something like the imperial 
yellow of China, and then pink lake, vermilion and blue, sea- 
green and white: the bright tones of Chinese porcelain. The piece 
de resistance on the side wall of the so-called entrance hall is Horus 
and the Queen Mother. Horus, the hawk-god, becomes a fabulous 
monster of fantastic shape, and you can plainly trace the subjective 
interpretation of an artist who is quite free from any superstition* 
Body and limbs are brilliant vermilion, the apron yellow and white, 
the bird-head white with a blue and red and white striped crest. 
The color transposes the fable into the individual vision of a 
painter who thought only of his wall and his room* Thus you 
willingly let the animal mythology pass. The same vermilion re- 
curs in the tight-fitting robe of the very distinguished-looking lady, 
whose flesh is yellow and whose headdress is bluish red* It must 

216 EGYPT 

have been a wonderful period for clothes, equal to that moment in 
the Middle Kingdom when the Egyptian Laliques invented jewelry 
for Princess Khnumuit. This picture to the right of the door had 
a pendant on the left which was once similar in composition and 
color but is now, alas, grievously damaged. The other walls were 
arranged in the same way. Great seated figures in beautiful colors to 
right and left of the door, and still-life arranged on shelves as ritual 
offerings. It is not surprising that such an arrangement should one 
day become the regular archaistic convention for this kind of 

Then comes the hall in which the birth of the Queen is re- 
counted. The ceiling is not supported by columns, but by eleven 
pairs of square pillars; and each pillar is adorned with a composi- 
tion of two figures, mainly in yellow and very bright pink, a 
reduction of the otherwise extensive palette and likewise a reduction 
of the graphic form. The main wall again shows the rich scale of 

The corresponding hall on the other side of the slope is treated 
as a pendant: the same pillars again, for the most part recon- 
structed, and the same color-scheme, except for borders which con- 
sist merely of a narrow red and a broader yellow stripe. In such 
details one feels an irresistible and quite modern taste. On the 
walls are amusing pictures of the expedition to the land of Punt 
and its dealings with the people of Punt. On one pair of scales 
three cows, tightly packed together, are weighed against gold in- 
gots. The humorous side of bartering was not lost upon the artist. 

The three chapels of Hathor are the best preserved. Here is the 
final heightening of the color: a great deal of red and blue in strictly 
symmetrical pictures. In the second chapel, on both the main walls, 
we see the boat with the sacred cow. The third chapel contains 
a double masterpiece: the queen, this time not erased, drinking 
from the udder of the divine Hathor. Strange ideas and subjects 
emerge on these walls. Memories of antiquity and the antique stir 


in one's subconscious, are rejected, reappear. That afternoon at 
Dulwich when I first saw the Poussin with the little Zeus grasp- 
ing the udder of the goat between her legs and drinking his fill. 
It is not merely an association of motifs, but an association of 
one Arcadian scene with another, such as legends of this sort 
occasion, albeit this art differs from the other as much as the green 
garden at Dulwich differs from the sand of the desert. Funda- 
mentally Poussin is no more unreasonable in his demands than 
these Egyptians, and our opposition is borne down for the same 
or quite similar reasons. Perhaps Poussin is a little bit harder to 
accept since he does not have the decorative walls of this Sans 
Souci to help him. 

The only things left on the upper terrace are the pretty niches 
where statues stood it almost puts you in mind of a Renaissance 
villa in Rome and traces of walls and the two masterpieces stand- 
ing free in the middle: the door frames of red granite. The second 
especially, leading to the holy of holies, is a jewel among orna- 
ments: festal though always mundane in its splendor, a mixture of 
sanctuary and palace. On the vertical jambs the same rich arabesque 
of the hieroglyphs is repeated, though the carving is more delicate. 
Above on the granite crossbeam is a richer central motif, The color 
still remains in the cavities in the granite: a claret which sets off 
the red tint of the stone, and a bronze-green. It is a blissful comfort. 

The color assists our fancy to reconstruct the temple and the 
history of the lady who built it. Breasted calls Hatshepsut the first 
great woman in the world's history. It fell to her to oppose for many 
years the will of her brother and husband, who subsequently proved 
to be the greatest king of the New Kingdom. Thutmosis was con- 
sumed with an immoderate desire to smash up his surly vassal tribes 
and he finally achieved it in a series of glorious campaigns. 
Hatshepsut had other desires and wanted no wars; and although 
her rule weakened the land we find her a more sympathetic figure. 
For the sake of the people who needed a check she is represented 

218 EGYPT 

in these pictures as a man. Who knows what fun they may not have 
got out of it in the intimacy of their domestic circle. At times 
you fancy you can trace a suppressed smile among these columns 
and pillars. However she might dress herself up at the priests* 
desire, the building unmasks her. In this temple one keeps think- 
ing of women; the building glorifies her sex. There is something 
feminine about the lyrical pictures which translate everything 
mythological into terms of pleasure. Similar colors occur in all 
temples, but never with such taste; its very intimacy speaks o the 
feminine, and the cult of the feminine. The whole terracing is 
feminine, with its garden of myrrh trees; and so is this cheerful 
pleasure-house of a temple, this Sans SoucL A relaxation of severe 
discipline is perceptible; here you feel only the well-being of free- 
dom. You can understand how Hatshepsut numbered among her 
followers that Amenophis, the heretic with the feminine look and 
the long skull who made away with the animal-idols and set up the 
sun as the only god and whose name was scratched out with the 
same furious conviction. 

A couple of hundred yards nearer the Nile, Pierpont Morgan 
has built a long house in a pleasant colonnaded style with the cus- 
tomary cupolas, for an American archaeologist who is digging here. 
It lies cosily among the slight undulations of the ground and its 
tone matches the earth. For a millionaire it's quite decent. 
Hatshepsut must have built here. In answer to our enquiry they 
told us amiably that the things they have excavated may be seen 
any day in the Metropolitan Museum in New York. 

The last time we were late and it was already dusk when we 
passed the colossi of Memnon. In the evening they are in tremen- 
dous form. 

MEDINET HABU. On the way to the valley o the tombs of the 
queens, not far from the colossi of Memnon, we passed the temple 
of Rameses III.; and as everything stops here, we stopped too, in 


the proper way, and had to listen to one more superfluous recitation. 
We are closer to Edf u here, and in the presence of this Rameses of 
the twentieth dynasty we feel compelled to raise the pedestal of 
the great Rameses a step or two. Even the good preservation of 
certain parts of the temple corresponds with that of Edfu. The 
world would be richer for one single wall more of Hatshepsut's 
Sans Souci, and without Medinet Habu it would not be much 
worse off. Only the fortress-like tower has something of the char- 
acter of that uneasy age. The warlike king who built so many 
strongholds put palisades even round his sanctuaries. It makes 
one think of the medieval gate-towers of Tuscany. At times the 
interior with the remarkable consoles up aloft, which might be 
Romanesque, makes one feel at home, and one expects any minute 
to find a drawbridge. After that it is poor. 

The mountains round the valley of the queens narrow down 
to a crevasse between two enormous walls of rock, where one of 
the queens buried here might well have picnicked with her ladies- 
in-waiting. The painting in the tombs, astonishingly well-preserved, 
is more objective than that in the kings' tombs and fairly free from 
hocus-pocus. The fashion pictures are extremely interesting; they 
went to their rest en grande toilette. A dress with simple shoulder 
straps reminds me of Babuschka's blue one. Another, richly orna- 
mented, was lately worn by Frau Henkell at the Winter Palace. 
These representations are not much more than fashion-plates. The 
women are all thin, of a pronounced Jewish type. Even the god- 
desses are very smart. The grandest tomb naturally belonged to 
Nefretere, the wife of Rameses the Great; that of Queen Titi, seri- 
ously damaged, appears to be in the manner of Hatshepsut. 

Painting in Egypt remained the handmaid of architecture. Under 
Hatshepsut it had its chance, which perhaps lasted longer than the 
temple at Der-el-Bahri allows us to recognize; but the overpowering 
tradition of sculpture cramped it. Sculpture would seem to have 

220 EGYPT 

played the part that painting has achieved in our day; and in the 
New Kingdom it displayed a marked penchant for the picturesque. 
Under the heretic-king Amenophis this tendency acquired a great 
importance. El Amarna is an incubator of impressionism; subse- 
quently there followed a series of reactions, as in our own painting. 


Jtv AMESES II., the most important monarch of the New Kingdom, 
had a fatal effect on its architecture. From then onwards, with 
certain interruptions, the decline continued. How far? The eight- 
eenth dynasty, which expelled the foreigner and set the kingdom 
on its legs again, brought with it a great architectural revival whose 
climax was reached in the time of Hatshepsut and Thutmosis. It 
was a time when personal prowess stood for more than collective 
effort. The differences between the queen and her consort also 
distinguish the forms of their buildings. How far? The decline is 
associated with the architectural use of colossal sculpture; this began 
in the Middle Kingdom, but only incidentally, not as an inde- 
pendent cause. The pillars with the great Sesostris as Osiris in the 
Cairo Museum may well have adorned an architecture of pure 
and imposing form, though they would have been unthinkable in 
the brilliant period of the Old Kingdom. A great interval of time 
lies between this Sesostris and the king who for the first time set 
up figures as large as the pillars against which they stood and thus 
announced his greater concern for his own dignity than for that of 
the space at his disposal; and one would like to investigate its 
discords. Since complete buildings of the Middle Kingdom are 
rare much rarer than those of the Old Kingdom we decided 
to visit the tombs at Benihasan, near Minyeh on the way back to 


220 EGYPT 

played the part that painting has achieved in our day; and in the 
New Kingdom it displayed a marked penchant for the picturesque. 
Under the heretic-king Amenophis this tendency acquired a great 
importance. El Amarna is an incubator of impressionism; subse- 
quently there followed a series of reactions, as in our own painting. 


IX AMESES II, the most important monarch of the New Kingdom, 
had a fatal effect on its architecture. From then onwards, with 
certain interruptions, the decline continued. How far? The eight- 
eenth dynasty, which expelled the foreigner and set the kingdom 
on its legs again, brought with it a great architectural revival whose 
climax was reached in the time of Hatshepsut and Thutmosis. It 
was a time when personal prowess stood for more than collective 
effort. The differences between the queen and her consort also 
distinguish the forms of their buildings. How far? The decline is 
associated with the architectural use of colossal sculpture; this began 
in the Middle Kingdom, but only incidentally, not as an inde- 
pendent cause. The pillars with the great Sesostris as Osiris in the 
Cairo Museum may well have adorned an architecture of pure 
and imposing form, though they would have been unthinkable in 
the brilliant period of the Old Kingdom. A great interval of time 
lies between this Sesostris and the king who for the first time set 
up figures as large as the pillars against which they stood and thus 
announced his greater concern for his own dignity than for that ot 
the space at his disposal; and one would like to investigate its 
discords. Since complete buildings of the Middle Kingdom are 
rare much rarer than those of the Old Kingdom we decided 
to visit the tombs at Benihasan, near Minyeh on the way back to 




Cairo, which date from the eleventh and twelfth dynasties. At 
4:25 A.M. the train arrived at Minyeh. One must expect a certain 
effort when it is a question of edification. Our experience at Edfu 
advised us not to look for a hotel At the station there was 
a decent buffet kept by a Greek, not a Ptolemy. There we made 
tea and drowsed for a bit. About seven we took a car and our hunt 
for the tombs began. Minyeh produces quantities of cotton and 
sugar; and its half -European streets give the impression of an 
Upper Silesian border town. We passed columns of workmen on 
the way to their shift, with the same expression on their faces as 
you see at home, as we went through innumerable places in the 
rich fertile country. Somewhere or other we left the car and made 
our way through sugar-fields to the Nile, led by a native who 
hadn't a notion which way to go. We crossed the river, in com- 
pany with a cow, and then retraced our steps for miles and miles. 
More and more people, thirsting for bakshish, kept coming up and 
announcing that they were absolutely trustworthy guides and 
quarreling among themselves like specialists, till Babuschka grew 
more and more embittered. As I was just about to give up the race 
we reached the tombs; and it became evident that two hours before 
when we had taken our first guide we had them right under our 

We were rewarded. The first tomb of all was an exceedingly 
comfortable room with beautiful proportions. The faded wall- 
paintings had little charm for us after Der-el-Bahri, but there were 
no rooms as attractive as this in Hatshepsut's temple. Reed-columns 
two of them still surviving supported the roof; they were re- 
motely connected with the big ones at Luxor, and more like those 
we found at Karnak, though incomparably finer. The learned 
maintain that the type is derived, not from the papyrus but from 
the lotus; but this botanical distinction is not of much consequence. 
The form contains no trace of that objective sobriety which aston- 
ished us at Luxor, Here the column shoots up and carries, besides 


the beam, the weight of its own dignity. It is much nearer to nature 
and yet quite unnaturalistic: an organism compacted o architec- 
tonic instinct, which makes you think not of what it later became, 
but of the pyramid-temples from which it derived. Even the plain 
square caps to the shafts I find attractive. The curved section of 
the shafts verges on the round, but retains the beautiful tendency 
towards elliptical form. Even the downward taper which offended 
us at Luxor, as contrary to reason, is here natural and charming, 
and the capital with its simple strip finish is much better contrived. 
Every inch betrays the artist's hand. 

The transition from this column, with its individual character, 
to the tube-columns of Luxor, which are effective only in the mass, 
marks the difference of period, and is as familiar to us as the dis- 
tinction between hand-made and machine-made. 

In this first tomb was laid Kheti, a provincial prince of the 
eleventh dynasty. In the next reposed his father. Then, house by 
house, come the twelfth dynasty tombs: first that of Khnemhotep, 
with its little entrance-hall whose roof is supported by two sixteen- 
sided columns. The tomb-chamber is a splendid room splendid 
now only for the calculated subtlety of its proportions with its 
triple-vaulted ceiling. The gentle curves of the ceiling are divided 
by two stone beams which rest on four columns of the same sixteen- 
sided type as those in the entrance-hall. In the middle of the 
back wall is the entrance to the chapel which once contained the 
statue of the departed. The relation of this entrance to the wall, 
like that of the chapel to the tomb-chamber, shows infallible taste. 
The wall-painting is again much faded. The reproductions in 
Schafer do not correspond to the present condition of the pictures. 

The last tomb in the series, that of Ameni, shows even greater 
care, both in the entrance-hall with its two columns (this time 
octagonal) and in the way in which the entrance itself is designed. 
The four interior columns are almost completely preserved. The 
transformation of the type from the Zoser temple now comes ex- 

224 EGYPT 

trcmcly close to the Doric column. No step in the development is 
missing. The ceiling is again in three parts, but more richly 
decorated. The painting, this time well-preserved, is on a higher 
artistic level. Again we have rows of figures superimposed, but 
they are more rhythmically arranged and livelier in detail. The ani- 
mals in the hunting-scene on the left wall have something of 
Pisanello's charm; they also remind us of many early Chinese 
conceptions. The decoration of the triple vaulted ceiling is purely 
geometric with chessboard squares, each interrupted by a stripe 
running its entire length. In each case these stripes extend to a 
larger rectangular centerpiece adapted to the shape of the vault. 
The color is white and golden yellow. The purely architectural 
quality everywhere surpasses the charm of the decoration. Walls, 
ceiling, columns, door, perform a piece of spatial chamber-music of 
the most delicately articulated form. The temple of Der-el-Bahri, 
of which the columns remind us, runs more to decoration; and, as is 
natural considering its purpose, is much more sumptuous in plan 
and execution. Benihasan shows us a cross-section of bourgeois 
life; and this bourgeois tone gave us one of our strangest surprises. 
The style reminds you hold tight please! of Schinkel. These 
smooth porticoes, with their invariable pair of well-proportioned 
columns, dispose a German to think of the master who, countless 
centuries later, gave Berlin a similar bourgeois tone; and the 
chamber-music inside the tombs confirms this impression. The 
world is small The centuries with their religions and races, their 
kings and wars, signify little in comparison with form. Form 
contains an abiding principle of the conservation of energy which 
makes it possible to arrive at a belief in the immortality of the soul. 
The arrangement of the tombs side by side forms a dignified 
little street, which is greatly favored by the lie of the land. The 
chain of hills, here much lower than at Thebes and less voluptuous 
in movement, forms a natural rocky terrace which juts out some 
distance from the massif and whose approaches form natural and 

Der-el-Bahri. Three Views of Queen Hatshepsut's Temple. 


eminently architectonic openings. Here the human hand was able 
to approach nature and to make it serve worthy purposes. We are 
a stage further on the way to Abu-Simbel, though no shadow 
clouds it as yet. 

The mere rank and station of these provincial tombs, which 
chance has preserved, prevents our regarding them as crowning 
achievements of the architecture of the Middle Kingdom. Only the 
general style of the period the idioms that occur in every build- 
ing is here discernible; judged by these standards, all the famous 
royal tombs at Thebes are exhibition-pieces polished up for visitors, 
exotic merchandise. 

Shortly before our Nubian expedition an ethnologist tried to 
prove to me that the Egyptians had no sense of space. He was 
called Wilbrandt. By no means a fool; but his theories are narrow 
and his dialectic is glib. He wanted to ascribe the impotence of the 
Egyptians to their animal-pantheon, their hieroglyphs, their geog- 
raphy, and heaven knows what besides; and he trotted this im- 
potence all round the place, looking for proofs everywhere. The lack 
of space-sense was one proof. I argued with him like a savage and 
talked till I was black in the face, realizing perfectly well all the 
time that no argument of mine would ever have convinced any- 
body, even a much less obstinate person than he was. For the most 
part my speech consisted purely of interjections, and my argu- 
ments stuck in my throat. He, on the other hand, reeled off his 
nonsense in polished prose, and sat there waiting quietly for me to 
interrupt him. Then I couldn't produce a single convincing archi- 
tectural example and turned to sculpture, which they never could 
have produced without a sense of space. He refused to admit 
this analogy: regretted that he could not share my appreciation of 
sculpture, as he could see nothing in it but a chain of repetitions 
which confirmed his mechanistic theory. Mechanismus, it was 
called: German nomenclature can move mountains. He profited 

226 EGYPT 

by my scanty knowledge of the place and felt no compulsion to 
extend his own beyond the double stars in Baedeker. 

Those confounded stars! It goes without saying that Karnak 
and the Ramesseum and the Tombs of the Kings and Edfu teach 
you as little of the architecture of the ancients as the Tutchen rooms 
in the Cairo museum teach you of their sculpture. 

Actually, however, these petty little theories are no use for things 
like Egypt; they are only fit for intestinal ulcers or a carbuncle 
on the neck or for the burgomaster's wife who once suffered from 

On the way home we met a wind and there were real waves 
on the Nile. We couldn't reach the flooded bank and had to be 
carried ashore. Babuschka rode on a Bedouin's back and wobbled 
perilously. The wind carved queer little wavy lines in the sand. 


Cairo: end of February. 

JL HE town is in a flutter. The Semiramis has had to start an annex 
on a houseboat, and in front of Shepheard's you go in peril of 
your life. Our one-eyed Ibrahim detached himself from a knot of 
cookified English or Americans; and while the excited people 
swarmed around us, concerned about their colorful intellectual 
center, he greeted Babuschka and me like a brother. We must tell 
him all about our journey: whether we'd made use of his brother-in- 
law Said, who keeps all those camels and tents at Assuan, as he 
advised us to do. The great industrial exhibition is to open in four 
days* time; nobody can get in before that except him, and he is 
prepared, as a friend, to take us there the day after tomorrow in 
the afternoon and show us everything worth seeing. A lady who 
formed part of the crowd took possession of Ibrahim and pulled 
him from behind. 

It is no warmer than it was in December: at least, we can't detect 
any difference. Not for one day has the sun disappeared, nor even 
noticeably diminished its strength. They haven't had a drop of 
rain; and the town seems not to have put off its holiday dress the 
whole time. 

Before taking up our old quarters we wanted to spend a couple 
of days out at Mena House, in order to be near the pyramids and 
the sphinx and to enjoy the air. All filled up to the end of the 


228 EGYPT 

month, the manager telephoned; and we piously returned to the 
sisters and our loggia. In the old house, too, every corner was occu- 
pied. Apart from Dettenberg and the ethnologist Wilbrandt they 
were mostly new faces. The Syrian priest asked me to translate a 
German letter into French and promised as a reward to take us to 
the exhibition tomorrow. The best Syrian products are to be had 
there, it seems. 

Meyerhof's patients have overflowed into the passage, and his 
little back-room is full of old Persian things he has just acquired. 
We refused his invitation to breakfast as we wanted to be off to 
Gizeh immediately. 

"Don't go," he urged us. 

"Why not?" 

"It'll annoy you." Out of the corner by his writing-table he pro- 
duced a chased metal plate of the Abbasid period, silver and copper. 
"You always are annoyed the second time: it's only human nature." 

The silver brightened the dusty patina of the Abbasid plate; and 
-Babuschka tried her luck at defeating his scepticism by appealing 
to his sense of good comradeship. The white smock again appeared 
at the doorway; the sister complained at all these congresses. 

We went towards the Ataba to take No. 14 tram; but half-way 
there we got tired and chartered a car. It was evidently a holiday. 
Many houses were flying flags; and immediately behind Bab-el- 
Luk, before we passed the exhibition, we met a cart with baskets 
full of roses which scented the air. The triangles stood up more 
beautifully than ever on the horizon, victorious and exalted. We 
couldn't see out in the direction of the Mokattam, where the 
panorama unrolled itself, but only immediately in front; and al- 
though the fellow raced his engine and overtook every car we 
should have enjoyed going faster still. Now the Cheops stood 
before us in its full stature; and all our long-range notions on the 
subject crumbled into dust. All our experiences of the last months, 
all their gay color, slid rapidly away from under us. That was all 


padding, noise, the litany of the satyyeh, mere trimming; that 
swarmed all over the place, floated about the streets. Here was the 
immovable goal. 

The car was now breaking through the dazzling throng of 
camels, donkeys, sand carts and spick and span Bedouins; past the 
flower-beds and verandas of Mena House; dashing at a frantic pace 
up the narrow track with an impetus that carried us at the same 
speed right up to the top. For the last few moments we were 
poised above the world amid masses of blazing blue and gold; with 
an elegant flourish the car landed us up under the shadow of the 

For a moment we sat there dazed; for our mad career had 
disturbed our vision and it took some time to get used to the blue 
and gold. Quantities of people swarmed round us, twittering and 
cracking jokes. The yellow absorbed all their fidget, however, and 
all their chatter. You might have fancied yourself standing on a 
stage in the middle of a crowd of supers who accompanied the 
action with stereotyped gestures. Even our own heaviness was ab- 
sorbed and we hardly felt the sand beneath our feet. The best 
thing came first: the hill, our hill. We followed our old track, 
curving directly away into the desert, eager for the moment when 
the Sphinx would appear; and had some difficulty in moderating 
our steps. Probably Meyerhof s scepticism was mixed up with his 
incomprehensible preference for Arab stuff. This repetition after 
three months' interval brought us full satisfaction. At every step 
the scene grew more and more like a picture you already possessed 
and could recreate in detail at a moment's notice. Everything re- 
gained its old touch; and what once had sounded inadequate and 
faltering when heard alone now took its place in the whole. When 
you knew how everything went, you could imagine yourself as the 
composer of the panorama. 

Suddenly our eyes were struck by a sort of paralysis, which im- 
mediately affected our limbs as well and brought us to a standstill 

2 3 o EGYPT 

in the sand. One note refused to yield its expected sound, that 
absolutely decisive sound the most important of all which com- 
pleted the chord, and instead we heard a creak which reminded me 
of the noise made by that gallows-like crane on the dam at Assuan 
as it came up to us. In the hollow below us, where the profile of the 
Sphinx ought by now to appear, a strange mass rose up with a 
small round shingled head set on clipped and shapeless neck. Its 
appearance was comic and embarrassing and even rather improper. 
This mass imitated the Sphinx, for it occupied the site of the old 
one with its head, last time we saw it, encased in a wooden scaf- 
fold. This had now been removed; and here was a new Sphinx, 
a monster. 

"What a shame!*' said Babuschka, quickening her pace. For 
several minutes I couldn't connect my thoughts on account of that 
oppressive sound of the gallows-crane. I could not get used to its 
relation to the old Sphinx; the brachycephalous skull of our cook 
on the motor-boat seemed nearer the mark. 

"How dare they!" Babuschka exclaimed. 

The natives were still swarming in the hole. With the same 
idiotic refrain they carried their baskets of sand to the trucks. The 
whole body was luckily free at last: this weathered, eroded, patched, 
formless corpse which no longer looked like a Sphinx's body at all. 
And in order to make this figure intelligible and certain for scien- 
tific people they had smeared the neck and the head with cement 
and provided the royal headdress with clean new wings. The neck 
and head of somebody who has had an operation, all bandaged up 
and plastered over: the same method as at Karnak, except that 
here they are not dealing with stupid columns! 

"How dare they!" Babuschka exclaimed. 

Traces of the old Sphinx were recognizable, and the recognition 
was as repugnant as the identification of a corpse. Perhaps it would 
disappear again. Possibly it was only a silly experiment, a trial, a 
joke; once at HeymePs one night when we were drunk we dressed 


up the lifesize Apollo in a dress coat and white waistcoat and opera 
hat. Next morning the cast stood there in its usual state once more. 
And what was that? Merely any old Apollo, a copy o a ninety- 
ninth copy. And this was the Sphinx! 

No: they wouldn't take it away, of course. It was reinforced con- 
crete; you can build houses and engine-sheds and wireless towers 
of it, so why not a Sphinx? 

I had lost all interest in it and we turned back. In the evening, 
in our own room, the old image came back of its own accord; the 
note gave the right sound, and the deformity was driven out. We 
hadn't seen it properly, or had chosen an unfortunate viewpoint, 
or had become too sensitive with expectation. Even Wilbrandt 
thought it exaggerated. 

When we went there again next morning the miserable truth 
was revealed. They must have put potatoes in the face instead of 
eyes. The concrete never moved, and it seemed still worse. You 
couldn't see from the pyramids to the fertile land or from the hill 
to the pyramids. Everything had altered. It looked far worse, of 
course, from above, when you came upon it from the side. The 
profile that first, and once irresistible, impression when you left 
the curving path has now turned into a grotesque. 

We used to be perfectly well aware what the ravages of time 
had done to the monument; but the fissures were organic and left 
supports on which to rest the eye, and you felt no deformation. 
Now it was not this or that detail that was lacking, but the organic 
whole, whose nerves had been destroyed. From behind the head 
looked like a flattened sugarloaf. Hitherto the face had remained 
untouched up to the ears and the headdress; but even the front 
view, apart from the excavated body, suffered from the contrast 
between the pitted and the unpitted parts. The restored wings of 
the headpiece called attention for the first time to the ruinous con- 
dition of the face and falsified the volumes. Naturally they will 
keep the proportions; that they have done, or think they have done, 

2 3 2 EGYPT 

in the case of the neck. The only question is: which proportions? 
Have they reckoned in light or air or dust? Probably they took 
the wings of the headpiece, which are the most important organic 
element not only of the Sphinx but of the whole relationship be- 
tween it and the pyramids, for insignificant details of costume. 
Otherwise I can't see why they didn't at once work over the cheeks, 
touch up the nose and smear over the holes in the eyes. As seen 
from in front the disengaging of the body is probably more unfor- 
tunate than the patching. That too is nothing but a grotesque at- 
tempt at restoration; and the advantage that it is not irreparable 
does not help us to overlook the senselessness of the whole con- 
glomeration. On the corpse you notice the attempts of earlier periods 
at patching. Parts of the stone which complemented the rock came 
loose even in antiquity. From the Sphinx you could read a lecture 
on monumental surgery; and this lecture has evidently been made 
an exercise in investigation. Now they have even cleaned the sand 
off the breast, which has completely fallen in and the limestone 
gleams with a corpse-like pallor, whereas the face still bears the 
dark red of its old paint. It is frightening. It is like an anatomical 
preparation on a monumental scale. People have gone crazy. 

When the Sphinx stood up to its breast in sand it was as com- 
plete as could be, and nobody had dared to meddle with its con- 
dition. Then the fancy could readily complete the hidden body. 
Nature, which gradually destroyed the stone, simultaneously pro- 
vided the. silting-up as a means of repairing the damage. It veiled 
the sacrifice to inexorable decay and left only the still living portion 
free. Wonderful economy, wonderful piety of nature! Man's good 
will spoilt her game. What was left undone by the furious bar- 
barians who once broke into Egypt, what was missed by the Mame- 
lukes and their cannon, peaceful people have accomplished in our 
own day. The tragic part of the joke is that the people responsible 
for its undoing are there to look after the monuments. Official art- 
people have destroyed the Sphinx with the best intentions. 


The logic of it is cogent. This mangling o the Sphinx differs 
only in degree from dozens of other encroachments we have seen 
happening. It goes with all that business in and around Luxor, 
with the Tutchen swindle, with the monstrous neglect of the Old 
Kingdom in the Cairo Museum, with the whole mentality of these 
people who have no feeling for works of art, but approach them 
with their itch for knowledge. It goes with this science which 
exists for itself alone, and to which the world and humanity are 
something alien. They have no compunction in laying hands on 
great things, because they fail to see their greatness. They are im- 
pelled not by cynicism or lightheadedness, but merely by the solem- 
nity of their profession. What is to us an irreparable loss they put 
down to themselves as gain. 

I have made inquiries. This time even their gains amount to 
nothing. We all knew long ago what the digging would reveal, 
and nobody expected to find treasure. Nobody thought it out; only 
routine drove them to it. Whatever is in the earth must come 

The Sphinx always lay in a hollow bounded on two sides by 
rock-walls, and even in antiquity was exposed to silting-up. As 
long as they believed in its sacredness they were always concerned 
with keeping it free; as early as Thutmosis IV. they attempted it. 
In the Ptolemaic period barriers against the sand were built, but 
in vain; and the Romans closed the side towards the Nile, which 
was still open, with their flight of steps, thus completing the hole, 
Now we have the hole once more; only the Sphinx is missing. 
The hole compels the visitor to turn his attention to the damage and 
deformation. All they need do now is to build walls round the hole 
and cover it with glass and put up a ticket-office at the entrance 
to the museum. 

Need they have patched it? Some say that the neck had got too 
weak and might have broken off. Others declare that it might have 
lasted as it was for centuries. The risk could have been determined; 

234 EGYPT 

they ought to have taken it into account, and with it the need for 
action. Then they should have confined themselves to what was 
strictly necessary: supporting the dangerous place. Enough! That 
would have been difficult; but it would have been far easier with- 
out uncovering the whole body. The formlessness of the corpse, 
when laid bare, afforded no content; and there was always the 
risk that the whole thing might take off into empty space. 

How circumspectly the same people set about their business when 
they are dealing with a written text! How cautiously they take each 
step. No notion, however trivial, must stand alone, without citations 
and footnotes and a hundred ifs and buts flourishing round it: a 
whole network of minute links, and each one a policeman on 
his beat. 

Here they throw caution to the winds, because they are not 
responsible to anybody, because they are merely dealing with art. 
If it had only been a golden sarcophagus of a certain weight and 
in good condition! But it's simply a work of art, simply the noblest 
work of mankind! 

Wilbrandt the ethnologist supposed, yesterday evening, that grub- 
bing things up must be a cheerful business and bring a bit of life 
into mcchanismus. He would very much like to grub things up 

The architect who works with Borchardt conjugated: I grub, 
thou grubbest, he grubs* 

Wilbrandt thinks the shingled Sphinx isn't at all bad; you have 
to keep an eye on the romance of the desert. Life is more important 
than art. 

He was loquacious. The new science attempts to get clear of 
dryasdust speculation, to open up new roads and to take its prob- 
lems in a harmless and natural way. In one respect we are in 
entire agreement: in our mean opinion of the professionals of the 
old school. 

The earlier form gradually disappears. Even when we arc not 

Q, E. D. 235 

out there the note refuses to work; and when we are, we don't 
look at it, try to avoid it and get used to another view. Nobody 
can tidy up the sun. 

Often one gets as embittered as an old maid whose bird has been 
clawed. The senselessness of the whole proceeding poisons your 
sap. People say it wasn't necessary. The dam was necessary and 
can't be made the excuse for universal lamentations; it goes with 
railways and telephones. One tries to include the mauling of the 
Sphinx among one's inevitable necessities; but one only displays 
one's short-sightedness becomes part of it. The director-general of 
Egyptian antiquities, who has authorized this abomination, is 
merely a link in the chain and does his job, carries out the com- 
mands of the higher powers, and acts as a servant of progress. 
Besides, I am told, he is an excellent philologist. 

Certainly it was unnecessary; there were other possibilities; there 
were artists who would rather have cut off their right hands than 
had a share in this vandalism, A sculptor might have been some 
use: even one of modest rank. The director-general would have no 
difficulty in finding some semi-skilled academic who would help 
him to arrive at some practicable compromise. This director-general 
is a Frenchman. Since their disagreement with England all the posts 
have to go to Frenchmen. With this clause in the famous treaty 
which ended France's political role in Egypt, England thought to 
apply a plaster to the republic's wound and at the same time to 
recognize the great services of French investigators to ancient 
Egypt. In addition it was looked upon as a tower of strength 
for the future of the preservation of monuments. Prima facie the 
guarantee might have worked well enough, for the French have got 
the best sculptors; in the circle of Maillol and Despiau they ought 
not to have looked in vain for somebody to help the Sphinx. Did 
this occur to the French director-general? Certainly not. He might 
as well have consulted a Paris dentist. They used a subordinate 
draughtsman who had done various restorations in Upper Egypt. 

236 EGYPT 

Before that he had been a railway employee: an excellent fellow, 
of course. They are all most worthy people. 

This reflection called up a comical ardor within me. Since 
there's no doubting the good will of the French philologist and 
director-general, there was no question of replacing the badly- 
informed pope by a better-informed one. An insignificant layman 
like myself could never manage it. Yet if professional opinion of the 
better sort were organized to spread its ideas in a tolerable but 
serious form among the high authorities it might be possible to 
neutralize or at any rate to check the unhealthy state of affairs. 
Even if they confined themselves to filling up the hole again that 
would be something. 

I addressed myself to all the Egyptologists and commissioners 
of excavations. One sat with his column five minutes away from 
the Sphinx, and although he was in a fever to start work he 
listened to me quietly. Yes: if that's what you think, we must 
certainly call their handling of the business a mishandling. He has 
promised to go and look at it immediately. 

The second: Was it really so bad? Why to be sure, of course it 
was; and no wonder what else could you expect of a philologist? 
It had been very well as it was: capital. Keep it up! The more 
people pitched into them, the better! 

The third: Bless me! the good old Sphinx, oh dear yes. He had 
just dug up an arm-support of" the Middle Kingdom, and now 
Kis whole theory would floor even the most obstinate sceptics. He 
would explain it in three words: take a seat, please! . . . 

The fourth, fifth, sixth were just the same. They hadn't yet 
noticed; the Sphinx wasn't really in their line of interest. And they 
wouldn't care to make protests to the Director-General. That might 
lead to complications, you see. 

At Nahman's I met Benedite of the Louvre; I had once had some 
dealings with his dead brother Leonce. He knew what was what. 
It had been a deplorable mistake. He would talk to so and so about 

Q. E. D. 237 

it directly he got back from Luxor, Two days later came the news 
from Luxor of his sudden death. 

I went to the Egyptian patriots. Their first idea was to raise the 
political status of a subject people, and then they started talking 
of economic conditions. Of art they understood nothing whatso- 
ever. I was given an insight into the statistics of cotton exports 
until I felt inclined to hint how limited was my interest in such 
details. On the other hand Europe could hardly refuse to sympa- 
thize with a movement which was justified by its spiritual methods; 
and since the Sphinx might be regarded not only as a noble work of 
art but also as the device of Egypt, its barbarous treatment might, 
in case of need, be considered as a political affair, or at least be 
exploited as such. 

The patriot regarded this point of view as highly original and 
warmly recommended me to go to his influential friend in the 
Ministry of Education, and gave me his card. The gentleman in 
the Ministry of Education received me with open arms, gave me 
tea and cigarettes, and entirely agreed with me; but the Sphinx 
came under the charge of the Minister of Public Works, who hap- 
pened to be traveling in Europe. 

It is a waste of time; and so like a well-drilled German one 
must regard it as counterbalancing the Zoser and the Chefren 
with the falcon, Ranofer and Ti and countless other works, the Nile 
and above all, the Sun. Without a damper it would very likely 
be unwholesome, for one might get out of the swim. But the price 
is exorbitantly high. The damper is applied to the best places. 
To be sure, the fine things of the Old Kingdom remain in the 
museum. If one had never seen the Sphinx one would not be able 
to compare its beauty with their utterly different beauty, to experi- 
ence that miraculous intimacy between men of today and the 
work of men who lived in that remote and inaccessible past. It is 
quite a different sort of experience, quieter and more replete with 
mystery. The renewal of our acquaintance with our "Family" was 

238 EGYPT 

an expression, in a glance, of a familiarity which instantly began 
again at the point where it had left off when we went away. Even 
that second's delay which hampers our meetings with even our 
best friends was here spared us; the group was so perfectly urbane 
and considerate. It is extraordinary how one feels no sense of art 
or style or formal phrase, merely contact with human beings. Mys- 
tery again! I have never felt the same with any European sculp- 
ture: this human proximity without any of the aroma of the artist's 
personality, this objectivity coupled with such charm. Sculpture 
has never expressed itself in so utterly natural a fashion; it must 
have been as closely bound up with their lives as our writing is 
with ours. Yet it never sinks to mere calligraphy. 

One regards such things as belonging to the museum: that is, 
to our artistic world, not theirs; and their transportability testifies 
to their value. You carry them about with you like Corot and 
Cezanne. If it were something in one of those many cupboards it 
wouldn't matter, for there would always be something to replace 
it. You feel convinced of it. 

The watcher of Gizeh is there once for all, can be but one; and 
his solitariness raises up both him and Egypt. Only Egypt, the 
single morning of the everlasting sun, could achieve that finest 
stroke of collective activity, a monument to an artistic conception 
so remote from ours. In this place, and here alone. The Sphinx 
belongs to the place it watches, at the foot of the pyramids, and this 
proximity still further emphasizes its strangeness. The Sphinx 
watched over the age which possessed both the aristocratic objec- 
tivity which could turn into geometry without going stiff and 
numb; and that other boundless capacity, the primitive sense of 
child's play, which improvised in the stone of the desert that legend- 
ary creation in human shape for the glorification of humanity. It 
watched over a childlike race of men. 

The race is there no more. Away with the watcher! 


The Sphinx in its Present Condition. 

Front View o the Sphinx, 
Present Condition. 

The Sphinx undergoing Res- 


1 HE morning after the night we crossed the Suez Canal began 
with flowers. At one station Jewish children threw bunches of 
anemones into the sleeping-car. Wherever a door or a window 
opened red flowers flew in. Later on we had to pay a shilling 
a bunch, though they were to be had cheaper. Bald mountains, 
like many high parts of Spain: lots of stone and little green. Babu- 
schka compared each point with Egypt and didn't find much 
difficulty in establishing the superiority of the Nile valley. The 
anemones suited her, 

On arriving at Jerusalem we had to do battle with Arab porters. 
A German or German-American or German-Hungarian with 
pronounced Jewish features stood by us and chucked two of the 
coolies out of the station with his own hands. He was the station- 
master, but was distinguished from other station-masters by his 
lack of any badge of office and his civil manners. To reach the 
German Hospice we had only to walk across the rails. Babuschka's 
temper improved as we took possession of our own rooms, though 
they were smaller than the ones in Cairo. The Hospice belongs to 
the Sisters of S. Carlo Borromeo, and the Mother Superior was 
once in charge of the house in Cairo. You feel as if you were still 
linked to Cairo; here are the same quiet faces under their white 
hoods. The guests are exclusively English. When I tried to intro- 



duce myself at table as the custom was in Cairo and the good man 
gaped at me stupidly, I noticed it and felt embarrassed. 

The Jewish motor-bus, which goes every half-hour, takes you to 
the Jaffa gate in twenty minutes. There's no trusting the Greek one. 
The chauffeur and all the occupants spoke German. We were all 
jumbled up together; I sat for a time on the fat thigh of a Jewish 
doctor, who directed us to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The 
dust in the street was stifling. 

One ought not to take Palestine after Egypt, although it is prac- 
tical and, thanks to the sleeping-car, as convenient as possible. 
Berlin would make an easier starting-point, if only because of the 
sergeant-major style of the churches with which William II. en- 
dowed Jerusalem. You don't feel the same as you did in Egypt; 
the contrast is absolute. We had lived for half a year among monu- 
ments whose form had become so familiar to us that the people 
who made them, so and so many thousands of years ago, strange as 
their religion was and impenetrable their way of life, were now as 
intimate with us as our nearest and dearest. Their form seems to 
us equivalent to a higher type of Europe. This uncommon experi- 
ence is here reversed and shows its other grotesque face. Every 
formal remembrance of the exalted founder of Christianity in 
Jerusalem and the neighborhood is an infamous swindle of the 
most repulsive ugliness; and one takes little pleasure in participat- 
ing in the culture whose documents are here. Its form denies it like 
a tattered coat. 

I approached the famous holy places in the mood of a man who 
reverences the Nazarene as the most sacred, luminous, and inti- 
mate heroic figure; and boredom and impatience, shame and dis- 
gust drove me away again. Dostoievsky is right. If the Savior came 
again, the Greeks, the Romans and the other Catholics would not 
only burn him but rend him in pieces and dedicate the pieces to 
their idolatrous cult. No place in the world is more alien to his 
spirit. If nothing were there he would be better off. It would be 


easier to think of him on a bare mountain side than in the church 
where they say Christ was buried. This church of the Sepulchre! 
Where there is a mere attempt at a temple-like structure, a second 
Christian church has been built into it, and so with churches 3 and 
4. And woe betide the priest of No. 4 who wants to do anything 
in No. 3! A stupid mystery with dark holes and a glitter of lamps 
which look as if they might have come from any old bazaar, but 
which are of course gold and silver: a sumptuous desert of precious 
stones. Nowhere a place for the worshipper to meditate on the 
grandeur of the redemption in spirit and in truth. In the Church 
of the Nativity at Bethlehem lies a carpet cut obliquely across be- 
cause church No. 2 neither may nor will set foot upon it on the 
way to its own conventicle. Here at times they pray knife in hand, 
and Mohammedans have to keep the Christians from doing each 
other to death. The predecessor of the present English governor was 
a Jew, and as the Christians could not agree upon the management 
of the Church of the Sepulchre he had to take over the function. 
There is one sanctuary in Jerusalem: the Mosque of the Rock* 
It lies in the middle of the town on the one open square, the site 
of the old temple, which gains in size from the narrowness of the 
surrounding alleys. It is a real temple: a collection of units which 
has become a monument. I know no more beautiful, or more 
beautifully situated, building. The square, like a sort of gigantic 
stage since it stands a yard or two above the surrounding level 
impresses us with something of the dignity of an acropolis. At the 
four corners are steps with round-arched arcades above them. 
These isolated arcades are like the wings of a theater, which per- 
haps the builder of the temple thought to complete. Anyhow, they 
are noble wings. We saw the temple first when we came on the last 
day of Ramadan and dared not venture on to the square; we 
looked down from the roof of a neighboring house, and accidentally 
caught the best viewpoint for the decorative effect, for from the 


roof you were aware of nothing but the upper part of the octagon 
covered with Persian tiles. A huge, eight-facetted precious stone 
flashed in the sun; the real orient of the Arabian Nights, for once in 
a way, but even more brilliant than fancy can paint it, yet without 
distracting glitter. This effect is a good deal lost when you stand 
in the square itself and can take in the whole, for unfortunately the 
jeweky was never completed, but the lower part of the walls was 
covered with marble slabs: a bad Mohammedan mistake. The 
mighty octagon and the high cupola overcome it. I was prepared 
to beg Islam's pardon, for no other mosque displays this sure in- 
stinct in the choice of proportions and this absolute supremacy of 
construction. The interior revealed the explanation of its excep- 
tional impressiveness. Under the Arab decoration lies the architec- 
ture of an early Christian cathedral that served as a pattern for the 
mosque. By a quick intuition I must have recognized the connec- 
tion at the first glance. The dome, the lofty center, the head of 
the building and the square, the head of Jerusalem, is covered in- 
side with a sumptuous scroll-pattern in mosaic, and unfamiliar 
sounds immediately strike your ear as if all the bells in Ravenna 
were pealing one Sunday morning. Islam has placed some pretty 
colored glass in the windows and the old parts fit in harmoniously. 
The rest of its ornamental additions, mainly of recent date, it must 
be confessed, are rather disturbing, but are swallowed up in space. 
Under the dome rises the old rock of sacrifice, once the middle of 
Solomon's temple: an unhewn stone as nature made it, surrounded 
by a high barrier. It lies there like a tousled prehistoric monster, 
dull and menacing and formless. 

Jew, Christian and Mohammedan each has contributed to the 
place. Its spirit embraces all parties. The temple is mightier than 
the church. Babuschka prefers it to the temple of Luxor and refuses 
absolutely to recognize the reasons which make the comparison 


THE DEAD SEA. You climb down in a hundred serpentine zigzags 
from the bleak mountains to the still bleaker depths, far below the 
mirror of the sea, and fancy you are journeying to the infernal 
lake. The oppressive Hamsin increased the normal temperature 
and drove the fiery sand into our pores. You turn into blotting- 
paper. Not a house, not a soul to be seen far and wide; and the sea 
stank to the heavens. Now and then a motor climbed up the snaky 
track and rose with difficulty into the real world* Poisonous green 
lights lay on the mountains. 

The Jordan is a narrow river, yellow and muddy, its steep banks 
covered with willows. Somewhere in the damp a still-life of cor- 
rugated iron and paper marked the goal of excursionists a struc- 
ture on piles made of rickety tree-trunks, a sort of garden-arbor 
without a garden, shaky benches and no table. The refreshments 
lie about on the ground: lemonade bottles, broken glasses and a 
derelict gramophone. Carelessly stuffed jackals and porcupines and 
a wild sow with gouged-out eyes sit glued to the miserable branches 
of the trees. A couple of toughs in sleeveless jerseys were lounging 
about, waiting to ferry passengers across. This is the place where 
Christ must have been baptized. 

Old Jerusalem, with its narrow booths belonging to Arabs and 
Jews, is always swarming and crawling. There is a constant coming 
and going. The crusaders built stone arches over the alleys; you 
often have to pass over slippery stones through dark tunnels and 
subterranean vaults full of vegetables where you can hardly breathe. 
Babuschka discovered the charm of blonde curls around young 
faces with sharp noses. The curls flutter like little banners in the 
wind. When the faces are old and wasted with wear and tear, the 
curls look like silver-gray leaves growing out of blue stone. 

On the Sabbath everybody goes as a matter of course to spend 
the afternoon at the wailing wall. One old woman whimpered as 
she banged her skull against her favorite place. Some howled, 
and others croaked huskily or lustily. Still others prayed out of 


books, raised and lowered their heads in a rapid rhythm like Arab 
students in mosques. People of substance do it with dignity, and 
wear brilliant satin robes and caps trimmed with fur. Rembrandt- 
esque figures wandered up and down in front of the dazzling stone. 
Babuschka's ancestry began to tell Only these figures really be- 
longed to Jerusalem; and she argued with me when I refused to call 
the Rembrandtesque note Jewish local color, especially as the fur- 
cap came from Poland. Babuschka found Poland unsatisfying; 
Jews come from Palestine. 

"But think of Rembrandt's Jews and their fur caps." 

"No, they come from Spain." 

"Do people wear fur caps there?" 

The Jewish problem hovered on the blue horizon. At this mo- 
ment it was much to the fore and dominated every one's thoughts 
and opinions. Every one reacts as he can. In this fatherland of 
the Jews I was surprised at the scarcity of their own monuments. 
Apart from indifferent bits of walls there was nothing to be found. 
At Capernaum after Herod's day they built a synagogue in the 
Roman style and contented themselves with introducing their own 
marks into Roman ornament. What was Solomon's temple like? 
No form emerges from the descriptions in the Bible. Old Josephus 
talks enthusiastically about Corinthian capitals. Did they always 
do as at Capernaum! A bad sign. 

"Why?" she asked. That might very well be their strength. It 
wasn't a question of externals. 

"Do you call the Egyptian way a mere external?" 

"Egyptians were like that; the Jews were different. What good 
did the Arabs' ornament do them?" 

"I didn't exactly mean ornament," 

"The main thing is that the Jews still exist. Apart from their 
stone business the Egyptians haven't left a trace behind them." 

"Their stone business . . . ?" 


"The Jews must have been like that, to be able to stand up to 
you as they have done." 

Her theory develops as she goes along. The Egyptians were 
visual people. If the Jews had been too, they'd have had their eyes 
put out. In order to produce form you must have a rest from 
pogroms. No art can grow up in the ghetto, etc. 

How suddenly she has come out with it! And the pretty, sulky 
way she mumbled it, as if I were going to raise objections! 

That would imply, I remarked, that art was vouchsafed only 
to less talented people with private means. 

Nobody has even doubted the Jew's sensibility, she insisted; 
without the Jews we might as well shut up shop. 

We! Well, we have our own ideas as to the difference between 
appreciating and creating works of art. I try to make her see it and 
fail to notice that she has stopped at a cobbler's and I am talking 
to myself like a fool, in consequence. The fellow is asking her to 
step in. Afterwards, when we have been discussing a dozen other 
things, she suddenly says: "It's only because the Jews have been 
able to resist 'externals' that they have kept anything at all." 

My blood is up. 

"What have they kept? Haggling and sharp practice! So there!" 

She didn't answer, and withdrew her arm. A tiff completes the 

If the Sisters of S. Carlo Borromeo had the Church of the Sepul- 
chre to look after, it would all go like clockwork. They are very 
strict among themselves. The sister who serves us wanted to see her 
sick mother in Germany: her first leave for twenty years. The 
mother superior remarked casually that sisters can't always be 
gadding about. At the same time she brought Babuschka an iron 
tonic she had made herself, because she looks so pale. Without my 
asking for it they have given me a second room to work in, and 
I can have my tea at five in the morning. They deny themselves 
and are angelic to others. The sister who had had no leave smiled: 


not sourly, or bitterly, or seraphically, but just as at some childish 
prank. They are never rancorous. Early in the morning they sing 
their chorale; that is the only mark of their position, and nobody 
but myself has noticed it. They keep a first class table. An English- 
woman has told Babuschka that they've got no hair. "A bald skull 
under that white hood: think of it!" 

"I couldn't do it!" she whispered. 

"But you Ye not a sister of the order!" 

"Of their own accord, imagine it!" 

"That makes it all the easier." 


She shuddered; she couldn't do it. 

Werfel and Salteri gave us introductions to Herr Kisch, the 
head of the Zionist Council. He sketched out a program. With 
a car you could learn something in a week about some of the Zion- 
ist settlements. I expressed a desire to see the Lake of Tiberias and 
some of the more remarkable stretches of country in northern 
Palestine, as we hadn't come here entirely on Jewish business. 
Herr Kisch quite understood. The chief settlements were pre- 
cisely those in northern Palestine and you could combine many 
other interests with Zionism. He called a man in and talked to him 
in an idiom which I took at first to be Arabic. The man came 
from Berlin and was at our disposal for any purpose: not merely 
for Jewish matters, it was smilingly explained to us. 

We came to know several functionaries from every conceivable 
country. They talked German to us and Hebrew among themselves, 
I always thought Hebrew was like Sanskrit, dead and gone. Every 
Jew here talks Hebrew, uses Hebrew, makes jokes in Hebrew. 
People who have only been here a year master the complicated 
idiom. It is the language of the country, it is written up over every 
shop and in every official notice, and the English, who are masters 
here, use this language in dealing with Jewish institutions. Babu- 
schka saw nothing odd in it. To me it seemed the most positive 


justification of the experiment, or at any rate its most striking side. 
There's no escape, even when you don't understand it. Language 
imposes itself. Naturally it acts as a means of communication be- 
tween brothers from all parts of the world. Black Jews come here 
from Central Africa. A little reflection shows how striking a fact it 
is. The language is an administrative convenience and gives the 
child a name; such things are always important. Personally I 
should have preferred a Volapiik, an Esperanto of their own, any- 
thing rather than this constant reminder of past history. There's 
no escape from the undertones of this means of communication. 
The Hebrews with curls on their temples, who have lived for 
ages in these dark alleys, speak Hebrew; so do the Orthodox in 
lilac satin and fur cap who abominate Zionism and deprecate this 
vulgarization of the sacred language; so do the fringeless students 
who have come here; and so do the socialistic workers. The lan- 
guage did not fall from heaven, but was always there, though 
sealed up in rigid forms. They have set it free: a brilliant idea, 
if not a genuine work of art. The original impulse of the organic 
sound has been preserved and is once more active. That is some- 
thing more than a mere talent for organization. There's no escape 
from the molds of procedure. 


1 HE new Hebrew university lies in a charming position some way 
outside the town on a hill near the Mount of Olives; here you 
have the best view over old Jerusalem. The university is an outpost 
in the open country acquired with the help of beneficent bequests, 
and has excellent chemical and physical laboratories. In the cellar 
there is the tomb of a high priest of the time of Herod, which came 
to light during the building operations. Other faculties are to be 
added in the immediate future. 

Incidentally I asked about the students. 

"They'll come." 

I have heard those words used in every tone of voice from vari- 
ous points of view these last few days. If you ask the gentlemen of 
the Council about the peasants who are to settle on the land bought 
for them, they reply: Oh, they'll come. If you ask in the settlements, 
where the people still live in miserable hovels, about housing ac- 
commodations, the answer is: They'll come. First the stalls for the 
cattle, of course, and then the child welfare center, and then of 
course the houses. And a great deal else will soon come too. 

Our visit to the settlements was attended by much the same 
results. The people to whom we were to apply were usually oc- 
cupied and other guides were found for us. We asked for statistics 
about men, women and children, cattle and water, and whether 



they grew corn or fruit* Though it was utterly unnecessary, we 
kept asking the same question in the same tone and assumed a 
weighty expression. We based our deductions not on the answers, 
but on the faces of our guides, according to whether they were 
grave or cheerful; and quite often on merely ridiculous incidents. 
Questions which might have facilitated or confirmed our deduc- 
tions were regarded with suspicion. Always this intensive cultiva- 
tion and cattle-breeding. We met neither joyous nor depressed 
faces; no doubt they have no time to think or feel. Apart from 
the children there seemed to be no idlers. The men were in the 
fields and the women were about the house and in the garden. The 
men were naturally the most surprising feature. Imagine all these 
intellectuals, spectacled types, that in Europe you find in offices 
and on the staff of newspapers and in banks. Of course they weren't 
all editors and bank-clerks not a single one, perhaps but physiog- 
nomically speaking they easily might have been. Fancy these spec- 
tacled faces with spades in their hands, or following the plough, 
or on hay-carts, or tending the cattle in their stalls: an extraordi- 
nary holiday sight. At first it is as incredible as the sister's smile. 
It's only when you shake hands that you realize the truth. Funny 
hard hands on thin arms: worker's hands on an intellectual's body. 
Peasants' bones will come. The talk you hear is dry enough: the 
opposite of what you expect, not at all spectacled talk but the same 
old story of intensive cultivation and cattle-breeding. You can't 
keep up with it; this dryness gets on your nerves at times. 

The earth is their reality. Here in the plain of Jezreel, which 
stretches for miles from Haifa to the Jordan, it was all swamp a 
couple of years ago, and the only fruit that flourished was malaria. 
The hands of the spectacled people have drained the swamps and 
turned them into fields. Where they hadn't swamps to deal with, 
they had to clear the stones from bleak hillsides and build buttresses 
against landslides. Often you would have declared that they had 
chosen the worst sites in order to make their example all the more 


telling. Did they think of example? What did they have in their 
heads ? 

They are ready enough to tell you about irrigation or drought, 
vegetables or tropical fruits, and whether it is a question of coopera- 
tive or communistic settlements. But if you come to internal affairs 
they always glance at their wrist-watches in just the same way, just 
as if they had an appointment. 

Thus Fechenbach let himself go with all the more enthusiasm; 
he is a socialist and a Zionist, and is recovering here from his 
imprisonment. We made part of our journey together. Fechenbach 
explained to me what results the settlers have had. They could 
have done it cheaper. The Arabs, who are used to the climate, 
were ready to help them, for a slight consideration, in the danger- 
ous business of draining the swamps. The Jews would have noth- 
ing to do with them; the land was to be their property. 

I spent one evening discussing the subject with one of the admin- 
istrative people; I believe he was called Max Levin. Fechenbach sat 
by. I expressed my admiration for their social morale as shown by 
this example. Dr. Levin said it had nothing to do with morale, 
merely with money. The settlers couldn't have done it cheaper as 
the nationalist funds at their disposal were not to be used for em- 
ploying foreign labor. In any case, Fechenbach interposed, other 
considerations may have carried weight and ought to be reckoned 
with ethically. No: it was purely practical; Herr Levin took a 
piece of paper and did a sum for Fechenbach. It was really quite 
simple. The discussion amused me; and I discovered that nothing 
supported Fechenbach's contention better than the refusal of the 
parties concerned to recognize it. The Ethical party have only 
just arrived and can't yet talk Hebrew; in order to avoid all phrase- 
making they prefer to call themselves materialists. 

Part of the modern settlements has been built on a socialistic 
basis. The other, created by Baron Rothschild, naturally has noth- 
ing to do with Marx. Native workers have turned their attention 


to it, and are still so employed. The inhabitants are ordinary colon- 
ists of middle-class rank and often get rich with Rothschild's assist- 
ance. Babuschka distrusts them; for the last fortnight she has been 
an ardent socialist. 

The new people are called Kwuzah. Everything belongs to every- 
body in common. Candidates have to submit to a period of severe 
trial, and once they are accepted they can't get out without losing 
their rights. It's the same as with our sisters. The Kwuzah get 
their land, stock and equipment from the national funds; the land 
is leased to them, and cannot be alienated. Everything must be 
paid back gradually. It seems there are alreadv some settlements 
which are getting down to business without further subsidizing; 
but that does not, of course, depend only on the good will of the 

In most others each family works for itself in the mutual buying 
and selling. Theoretically the demands are to be lessened, but the 
drudgery is perhaps becoming worse, for there are not enough of 
the poor to work the allotted ground. The poor will come, will 
come. I don't understand extensive and intensive economy; you 
can't discuss cows according to whether they produce capitalist or 
communist milk. People seem to be turning away from the socialist 
Kwuzah and taking more and more to family settlement, which 
agrees better with my bourgeois instincts; but I take care not to let 
Babuschka and Fechenbach notice what I feel. 

The brightest spot in the Kwuzah is the child, particularly the 
quite tiny one, the suckling. This "brightness" I mean to be taken 
quite literally. They lie in brilliant white coquettish cradles in spot- 
lessly hygienic rooms and are often as impertinently blond as 
Aryan babies. The child is the halo of the Kwuzah, the last oasis 
of capitalist luxury, the last religion, almost an idolatrous cult. The 
spot stands out too brightly from the rest of the picture. I seemed 
like a negro and was ashamed of my blackness. Incidentally, one 


often feels ashamed among the Kwuzah; probably that is why 
people find the spectacle objectionable. 

Babuschka, of course, is tremendously enthusiastic. The children 
are brought up apart from their parents, which seems good for 
both sides and doesn't interfere with family life in any way. The 
parents don't see their children till their work is done, and they 
are free from everyday burdens, clear of all ill-humor, purified and 
clean. That is how the bourgeois approaches art. In like fashion 
they devote their leisure to converting their family life into that 
edifying Platonism of the esthete who gets lockjaw in the presence 
of avowed sublimity. 

It won't do. The devil take me if I can see it. There's something 
wrong here. Too bright, too senselessly bright: it's crazy! It was 
in the filthy hotel at Tiberias that I let fly and exposed the folly of 
the whole affair to Babuschka down to the last hairbreadth. It had 
come to a head, and now everything was at sixes and sevens. 

First: When you have outsiders, whose boredom costs them a 
pretty penny, Europeans who are tired of Europe, Jews who have 
run off the rails, and then a generation of snake-charmers and 
dervishes persisting in spite of persecution and misery, what, I ask 
you, can you do with the next generation? Can people whose in- 
stincts and habits are adjusted to a European existence become 
orientals? Or rather, not orientals, but what? Peasants, oriental- 
ized peasants. No, not peasants, but cockneys on the land, rustic 
intellectuals. And even so, is it desirable? Why? For whom and 

Secondly: Granted that the immigrants multiply like rabbits, 
and that the Jews in Palestine will actually one day become an 
organized people. It is a devastating thought. And then the thirty- 
three nations who are already tearing each others* hair out gain a 
new recruit, No. 34. 

"You challenge their rights then?" 


"Oh God! their rights . . . it's the height o absurdity. The Jews 
a people!" 

"You'll live to see it!" 

"Oh, of course. What nonsense doesn't one live to see! You 
imagine that 'people' means something grand, and you can't see 
that with what they've set going they won't get bigger, but micro- 
scopic. They're doing themselves out of precisely what makes them 
strong and useful: the sum of their capabilities. They're turning 
themselves into a movie. They're dabbling with an idea which was 
clearly unattainable, and while it was unattainable seemed big. 
The ambition of the oxygen in the air to turn into a bottle of 

"Do you mean nationalism?" 

"Certainissimo, to use a Spanish expression! The worst anti- 
Semite couldn't do them better, quite apart from the question how 
far the English mean their protectorate seriously. The Jews are 
counted out the only ones who opposed the reaction, who stirred 
things up, set fire to all the dirty straw. Now they're setting fire 
to themselves: hurrah!" 

"They never give it a thought." 

"Of course they don't! The Rothschilds and the other fat chaps 
whistle for it, and so do the Berlin editors and producers. So you 
get two or three different sorts of Jews, each out for the other's 
blood. Which means that their one advantage over other people, 
their gift for sticking together like burrs, goes to the devil. Q.E.D." 

Babuschka pondered on it. 

"That isn't it. It sounds perfectly right and yet it's all wrong. 
They must do it." 

There it rests. They must do it. It may be wrong, it may be 
scatterbrained, but they must do it. Why? Because. The reasons 
will come, will come. Women always hit the nail on the head. It is 
there: consequently it has a right to be there. Fact. 

Not a hint of Egypt. Cairo lies in another part of the earth: a 


pretty dream, a visit to an art exhibition, an optical experience. A 
journey of twelve hours is enough to veil the pyramids from view. 
Old Kingdom, Middle Kingdom, New Kingdom fade away. The 
present is right. I believe that what really puts me against the Jews 
is my indignation at the tourist treatment of King Zoser, at the 
whole tourist business, at this mixture of Baedeker and the Bible. 

I discussed the political situation with Hans Kohn. People will 
always talk about quite other matters while clinging to the thing 
that comes next their heart. I cannot understand why they are so 
careful to keep the peace with the other inhabitants of the land. 
Today the poor Arabs are profiteering out of the money that comes 
into the country. The rich effendi's face is already turning sour, 
in spite of his having sold the land to the national fund at a stiff 
price. In time the immigrants send up the wages of the coolies on 
whose sweated labor his opulence rests. Already Jews and Arabs 
are working together here and there. If the workers' movement 
reaches Egypt and is put into practice there, the price of cotton will 
go up. Before the effendis let it get so far they will see their way 
to applying one of the approved remedies. Socialism won't be able 
to lay hands on the religious fanaticism of the Moslem so soon as 
all that; the pogrom of a few years ago was a preliminary canter. 

Hans Kohn declared that that was only a tiny part of the diffi- 
culties; the internal economic situation was far more serious. An 
acquaintance, who was sitting near by, advised me to read Felix 
Pinner's book, which states the most urgent problems. Then we 
began to talk of Dostoievsky. Pinner's book has often been men- 
tioned to me by the leading Zionists. I have read it; it is a collec- 
tion of all sorts of ifs and buts nothing less than tempestuous. 
Whole mountains of formidable problems pile themselves up. You 
don't need to be wildly sceptical to rate the economic chances of 
Zionism pretty low. Why do they give people this, of all books, to 
read? There are dozens of treatises that set out to play upon your 
feelings, and succeed. Why do they direct the doubter's attention 

The Theseum. 

The Parthenon. 


precisely to the most dubious aspects? How strong they must feel! 
Kohn himself has written on Zionism, I learn from Fechenbach. 
When I alluded to it he evaded the subject and started talking about 
the book by Holitscher, which I knew already and which exposes 
even more clearly the weak points of Zionism. One must give their 
nationalism the credit for one thing; they don't work with Euro- 
pean methods. But can one remain master of one's methods? Can 
you fertilize without manure? 

Tel Aviv, a new town, is built, inhabited and run exclusively by 
Jews. The 1921 edition of my guide gives it 3000 inhabitants; today 
it has 40,000, and tomorrow it will have 100,000. Everywhere 
they're building and tearing down again, for what they put up 
yesterday is too small today. Fifteen years ago the first house was 
the school. On a heap of stones in 'the main street I met the pretty 
daughter of Kahn, the Berlin banker. She sat there with two other 
girls, breaking stones. Last time I saw her she was dancing a fox- 
trot. In the evening we went together to the very pretty industrial 
exhibition. The pompous State exhibition in Cairo was nothing to 
touch it. A Russian Jewish company was acting pieces by Schnitzler 
in the open air, in Hebrew, of course. 

Tel Aviv lies by the sea and is like a Californian gold diggers' 
town with a strikingly bourgeois element which sweetens the pic- 
ture. There is a further distinction between it and American im- 
provisations: the gold is neither dug nor extracted by interesting 
washing processes, but is imported by post. This distinction fills the 
atmosphere and gives all things and their tempo a quaint distor- 
tion. The sham look, which is pure California, becomes even more 
so, and the grotesque boldness of the scene suffers in consequence. 
It the midst of the junk is concealed an accursed bourgeois solid- 
ity, the abortion of a small town. 

Close at hand lies the age-old Jaffa. The towns run together 
like Barmen and Elberfeld. Elberfeld is inhabited by picturesque 
Arabs in abayeh and turban, and has steep streets, often arched 


over, like a quarter of Jerusalem. The eflfendis sit the whole day in 
the windy cafes by the sea and play tric-trac. In Barmen motors 
rush to and fro, and people hammer and plane and build. Active 
business men jump over the holes in the streets. From early morn- 
ing till late at night hell and all its devils are let loose. Black and 
white, dead and living, are yoked together like twins. If Tel Aviv 
were finished, the contrast between orient and Occident would be 
still more disquieting. Later on people will visit Jaffa as they 
would a zoo, unless the beasts break out in the meanwhile. 

It takes its own course. Other towns will be founded; some on a 
regular plan and beyond competition with the Kurfurstendamm 
in Berlin. In Richard Kauffmann the Jews have a keen and gifted 
town-planner, and excellent architects in Baerwald, Reinsch and 
others. Ruthenberg, who proposes to get power from the rapids of 
the Jordan, is an industrial technician of the first order. And other 
Ruthenbergs will come. Everything is in order. Nothing civic, in 
the widest or narrowest sense of the word, can long be lacking. 
Even New York and Chicago, I fancy, with their skyscrapers and 
the whole apparatus of business men. Incidentally, business is 
confined, till further notice, to a willingly conceded, if purely 
poetic, license. At present quite half the immigrants go into the 
towns. What is the business there outside of Zionism? Those who 
have arrived live on those who arrive next day, and so on. What do 
the people with money do with themselves except build and get 
shaved? Petersburg and Berlin are also towns of colonists, but they 
possessed a hinterland which could be cultivated or industrialized. 
You get back to the settlers again. Every settlement on the land, no 
matter what sacrifice it may cost, seems reasonable, so long as the 
town remains a head without a body. A man in the Council to 
whom I outlined these ideas, remarked that not half, but between 
eighty and ninety per cent of the immigrants, went into the towns. 

"Isn't that rather serious?'* 

"Very serious!" 


"Well, there you are! Twenty per cent, then, go on the land?'* 

"At present only ten." 

"Well, there you are!" 

"But they must go somewhere. They can't get employment on the 

This anomaly is not due to any disinclination for country life 
on the part of the inhabitants. The stonebreakers wait longingly 
for the Kwuzah, and the Kwuzah wait for them, but there's no 
money forthcoming. The settling of a family with all its goods and 
chattels costs ^700; you could buy a Cezanne water-color for that. 
The present poverty of Europe cramps Zionism in every limb, and 
American millionaires are evidently not Jews. Up to the present 
the Zionist Council has created more than forty villages for about 
sixty thousand people, and most of them already require offshoots. 
In addition there are about sixty villages which have been founded 
with the help of the Rothschilds and others. Forty villages do well 
enough for the decoration of a tract of country but count as a mere 
drop in the settlement of Palestine. To double the number would 
take more than the ten million dollars with which Rockefeller 
offered to endow the new museum at Cairo, and which the proud 
Egyptians returned. One daren't think how many cooperative in- 
dusties could be founded in Europe with that amount of capital, 
and how many unemployed could be settled in Pomerania. One 
mustn't -think about it too much. If there are Peter's pence, why 
shouldn't there be Jews' pence too? In private, however, that is 
precisely what good calculators are denied. I don't grudge them 
their pence, but I do feel a dark distrust of their ideology; you 
want to turn every word round in order to get hold of it. 

Tel Aviv has got everything that belongs to a real town, even 
labor strikes. The workers seem to be more smartly organized 
than they are anywhere in Europe. They have cultural centers 
with libraries, their own schools, hospitals and convalescent-homes 
in the country, but no work. As we were leaving the town a builder, 


who had fallen off a scaffolding the day before, was being buried. 
A policeman headed the gigantic procession: a Jewish policeman, 
of course. Otherwise you could see nothing for the press of people. 
We had to stop. Order was maintained by the workers. Young 
people held hands on both sides of the street and formed winding 
chains round the body. The coffin was carried under a heavy black 
cloth. The interwoven hands gave the occasion more dignity than 
you see at any first-class funeral at home. Our car remained out- 
side the ranks. 

We have visited all the towns in Palestine, including Haifa, the 
most beautiful and the most promising. On Mount Carmel stands 
a Hospice run by our sisters. The view over the bay enraptured 
the psalmist. An hour to the south is Atlith, with the crusaders' 
castle. The great arched facade greets the voyager from France 
or Germany with familiar forms. Since the Egyptians were here, 
the country has seen many people and many sights and heard 
many cries of delight and execration in many tongues. A sea of 
blood has fertilized the oft-praised land. Of all pilgrims the crusad- 
ers were certainly the most daring. The fantastic dream of a Chris- 
tian Kingdom still hangs about among these pointed-arched Gothic 
skeletons. We climbed down into underground vaults of gigantic 
dimensions. I saw spectacled faces crouching in corners and im- 
agined I was in armor and was privileged to extol the corners and 
crannies of our own middle ages. 

Babuschka interrupted me: those medieval chaps murdered and 
plundered if necessary, and their Christianity rose out of devastat- 
ing pogroms. She can't stand knights. 

Beyond Haifa to the north lies Akko, where the crusaders are 
said to have landed. Hermann Struck, the painter and Zionist 
whom we visited in Haifa, took us there. You travel through damp 
dunes right down by the waves. Struck showed us the pretty en- 
closed mosque-square with green painted domes and green trees, 
and near Akko an enchanted garden with oranges, cypresses and 

HAIFA 261 

dates. The cypresses were as tall as obelisks. The bundles o 
bananas still retained their red flowers like thick dishes dripping 

Haifa is the born harbor of Palestine, especially since the English 
might bring petroleum here from Mosul. Kauffmann has drawn 
an extremely clever plan for the new harbor-town. There are sources 
of production here which will help to swell the Zionist budget. 


JHLABIMA, the Hebrew theater from Moscow, is touring here. They 
are giving The Dybbu\, a Jewish piece. We met Dr. Pick at the 
theater; he is a doctor whom we got to know through Levin. Dr. 
Pick is very obliging; and as he already knew the play he told me 
its contents five minutes before the beginning of the performance. 

"The substance is very simple, as youll see. Chanon, a young 
man who is studying the Talmud, is in love with Leah, the daugh- 
ter of the wealthy Sender. Chanon's father had once been rich 
too, and then the fathers destined their children for each other, 
You understand? But when old Chanon got poor, and died, Sender, 
you understand, wouldn't have any more to do with it, and prom- 
ised Leah to the son of a rich man. Chanon and Leah have only 
seen each other once, and have only said 'good-day' to each other. 
But the way they said it was enough for them, do you understand?" 

"Yes, I understand." 

"When young Chanon learns the new arrangement from old 
Sender in the synagogue, he falls down dead." 


"Yes, it moves a bit quickly; but youll see. In the second act the 
marriage takes place. Or rather, it's just going to; and as the rich 
Menasheh is just about to throw the veil over his bride in the 
Jewish manner she refuses him, and the master of the feast says 



at once that she must be possessed by the Dybbuk. Do you under- 


"The master o the feast is just a person there." 

"Yes, but the Dybbuk?" 

"Ah, to be sure, the Dybbuk. The Dybbuk is certainly the ghost 
of the dead Chanon who has entered into her and from whom she 
can't escape." 


"Now in the third act with the help of the great Rabbi Esriel 
a remarkable Rabbi, a miracle-worker, you understand they try 
to drive the Dybbuk out of the girl. It succeeds, but she dies. That 
is the end." 

"In a word, you have two people who can't get each other and 
so die in the usual way." 

"Yes, that's really it; only. . . ." 

"How does the Dybbuk come in? A trick, or what?" 

"No, it means. . . . You must see it. Ill explain more in the 
interval. You'll soon see." 

Dr. Pick is right: one must see it. It is amazing, how right he 
is; even somebody who doesn't know a word of Hebrew misses 
absolutely nothing. You see as you never saw before, more intensely, 
in all probability, than the other people in the dark auditorium who 
catch a word now and then and notice many interruptions which 
we are spared. It was enough to see the people talk and hear the 
tone of their voice. No doubt we missed much in not understand- 
ing the words, which the others understood and profited by; in a 
play of Shaw's, for instance, we could hardly have done without 
this assistance. Here, on the other hand, our loss was equivalent to a 
voluntary refusal, expressly designed to sharpen our sense of artis- 
tic perception and to remove circumstantial detail from the kernel 
of the treatment. Remark and counter-remark kept their value, 
but obtained their effect not with words but with dangling arms 


and legs, glances, and a leap, a whisk, a touch, a jerk. The mouth 
did not so much lead, as accompany these gestures. Often they 
resorted to singing or rather sing-song and their voices were 
always pulling and fingering their vowels. In a Berlin production 
o Don Carlos, mouthing can produce an unintentionally comic 
effect, since the abstract form of Schiller's words will not be sub- 
ordinated to the handling of them, but dominates it, and because 
this isolation of the diction exposes the performer as well. In The 
Dybbu\ this mouthing gives the local color, which is not cere- 
monial but social, a tone of communication, vividly colored and 
caught on the wing. Nothing could be less festive. 

In this stage synagogue you grasp the reason why the Jews built 
nothing, why they produced a Spinoza but no Raphael. The archi- 
tecture of their worship is swallowed up in disquisition. They 
lounge about on benches and tables, with the Rabbi in the middle, 
and talk of the Talmud, dispute, gesticulate, meditate and ponder 
upon it. Their concept of God knows no repose. If words are in- 
adequate, the enthusiast breaks into song. Mouthing turns into 
hymn-singing. Another sings too, and then a third, but never in 
a duet or a trio. Bach is quite a different affair. The tones com- 
bine, as in a dance which has never been danced before and sud- 
denly emerges. Their improvising arises not from any enjoyment 
of music, but from the wish to break away: a response to an in- 
stinct one cannot master. They return to the spoken word with 
equal spontaneity and suddenly talk soberly while the echo of their 
song is still lingering in the corner. They are differently organized; 
they don't feel the gulf which for us divides ecstasy from matter 
of fact, and escape our ingrained pathos. They get their chants out 
of their sacred books, and this spiritual origin does not abate their 
convulsive spasms. The successful interpretation of a text gives 
them the utmost satisfaction; and they roll their tongues and lick 
their lips, as over some tidbit, and romp round the room in rap- 
ture. They dance as they talk and sing. Their limbs twitch as they 


sit there on the bench; they stamp their feet and clap their hands 
involuntarily; and then, all of a sudden, off they go. Singing no 
longer answers; they must spin round and round. They catch on 
as the opportunity arises and leap about quicker and quicker, and 
their dithyrambs set the whole scene in motion. In the middle of 
it all something occurs to one of them. What was Rabbi Esriel say- 
ing just now? A pensive tone, long drawn out, and there they are 
again sitting with their heads together. 

All sorts of things happen in the synagogue. People live here, 
and what they do outside is a mere interlude in their life inside. 
The temple must have been rather different, but that disappeared 
when the persecutions began. From then onwards they organized a 
transportable cult. Possibly the driving of the merchants from the 
temple means more than the purification with which we are ac- 
customed to identify it. This synagogue is not so much a house of 
prayer as a house of conversation: a mythological coffee-house and 
a school for restless thinkers and poets. The crouching people might 
well be a band of conspirators plying their trade in a cave far 
from the rest of the world; the life of the band swallows up the 
individual. As we see it, the piece is a thoroughly cooperative affair, 
in which the literary effort of the scarcely perceptible author unfolds 
one single episode. The effect depends upon the evocation of the 
synagogue. This atmosphere, pregnant with mystery, might make 
quite other things than the Dybbuk seem possible; and the poet 
was only needed to grip hold of it somewhere and give it a chance 
to materialize. The point was well chosen. The ritual dance of the 
bride with the beggars becomes a Walpurgis-night in broad day- 
light. Brueghel's cripples and Goya's witches whirl past in a can-can. 
The ghost has seized the bride, in her white satin dress, and has 
got her by the throat. The close white satin, touched by the leprous 
limbs of the frantic beggars, calls a halt. Her dread at the thought 
of her bridal night becomes incarnate and extorts a scream from 
the satin dress. She thrusts the dumbfounded bridegroom aside, 


and the master of the feast recognizes the Dybbuk as a matter of 

It all comes off brilliantly and the consequences are highly dra- 
matic; but the drama does not capture us entirely. We take in the 
theater incidentally while our glances flit bird-like over the wed- 
ding scene and the wings and the dark auditorium; and even take 
in the cashier counting the money in the box-office, and sweep over 
the cabs and motors and lights in the street, and feel ourselves 
driven on and on by the rhythm until the town becomes a streak 
of light and Palestine a dark piece of gingerbread. 

A synagogue again in the third act. You look and look again 
and enjoy the play of the fresh properties. Your enthusiasm waxes, 
especially at the table which rises up at the back with the little 
rabbis chattering and mouthing and the aged chief rabbi across the 
front in a mask by Chagall. Their singing rises a third time, and 
their tears and laughter, and their dancing. That affects us too; 
the expelling of the Dybbuk goes a bit wrong and is of less im- 
portance. It is marvelous when the fabulous old monster in the 
Chagall mask embarks upon his slow triumphal dance over the 
vanquished Dybbuk, as though the synagogue were triumphing 
over human limitations. The whole theater rocks with him. The 
square, with its trams and lights, the whole town becomes a syna- 
gogue. The bride alone refuses to stir: the one thing in the world 
that will not rock with joy. She runs round in circles like a little 
dog with a bee in her ear: squeaks and yaps and dies like a poor 
wretch of a dog. Sada Yacco, the Japanese, who brought her com- 
pany to Paris in 1900, squeaked in just the same way. The rhythm 
comes from the East. 

The play is over, and now it is beginnig to work upon me. The 
people who are getting up to go home spoil it. "Mad!" I remark 
to a gentleman standing by, for the sake of something to say. 

He nods obligingly and mutters something under his breath. 
People clap a bit, and one couple, who don't feel embarrassed, 


remain standing and cheer. On the whole, however, the spectators 
try to get away quickly. Several look like people whom you have 
caught unawares at a family scene; the situation is not exactly 
compromising, but uncomfortable. 

In his amiable way Dr. Pick discourses upon the actress so-and-so. 
The producer died, unfortunately, some years ago; he was a pupil 
of Stanislavsky's, a Russian, not a Jew, and very gifted. He insists 
on my going ahead at the gate, where there is a crowd. The legend 
is historical. 

"Of course," I reply, and try to add a word or two, but people 
come between us. 

Probably it is all historical, or would they still be able to mouth 
it like that? Probably they feel about the Dybbuk as we do about 

Pick is enthusiastic. Such things still go on, even in Berlin, in the 
Grenadierstrasse, not to mention Jerusalem. Poetry and the produc- 
tion of the Russian, whose death we deplore, make it into a work 
of art; the synagogue, at all events, is a raw product. Auf Wieder- 

A raw product? That may have unexpected consequences. We 
are all poets, and we shall soon be learning management at our 
dancing-classes. We shall run short of raw-products. The language 
of these incomparable Russians, which we couldn't understand 
either, envisages a heap of possibilities in the DybbuJ^ It would not 
be so easy for us to transplant Russian comedy; though at a pinch 
it might be worth considering. But the medium of these Jews, their 
language which so readily turns to dance and song, their mouthing 
we shall never replace, any more than Rembrandt's chiaroscuro. 
There was a man who understood his medium. 

We can guess where their rhythm comes from. What they pro- 
duce is not the work of the insignificant poet, but the house of 
prayer. Every one recognizes their fund of energy which has with- 
stood persecution, exile, and massacre on innumerable occasions, 


and every one wonders where they learned how to cling together 
like burrs and rise above the others who had compelled them to 
crawl about in caves. It is the synagogue that stands behind them; 
nothing replaces this stimulant, this fund of energy. But does it 
still exist? In producing the house of prayer on the stage, they are 
getting further away from it. The ghettos are disappearing. Russia 
no longer provides pogroms for them,, but places the proper modern 
producer at their disposal. It is a question whether the abandoning 
of their oriental Golgotha, the sense of measureless anguish, the 
breeding-place of immeasurable fertility, may not prove the solution 
of the Jewish question: that is to say, the dissolution of the Jews. 

Can they discover the substitute for the synagogue they are 
searching for in Palestine? The people on the stage deny it with 
every limb, and drunkards tell the truth. Zionism is a poetic fact, 
a theatrical production. The Jews who are establishing themselves 
as peasants, building towns and founding a State are abandon- 
ing the raw-product. They are keen on an idea and fight for it 
with exemplary energy and political circumspection, but they are 
hampered by the very same systematic display. The settlers bridle 
the word that in the synagogue turns into dance or song. They 
are modern people, drenched by the great machine that washes all 
of us, the machine that works far more effectively than anti-Semit- 
ism for the extermination of the Jews. The mouthing belongs to 
the past. As recompense, they may now develop some of the artis- 
tic energy that hitherto we have been accustomed to deny them. 


JJACK to the settlements. It is absurd; for one visit is quite enough 
for the superficial interest o the tourist. More and more spectacled 
people with dung-forks and ploughs: the newest version of good 
old Papa Millet's Sower, with a dash o Vincent van Gogh thrown 
in. I have tried to appreciate the new sentiment which justified 
their burdens and which might be expressed in terms of Vincent's 
palette; but I haven't been able to get it. One has to live and work 
with them; Jews are not visual people. 

They are through with Zionism, which, whether by choice or no, 
remains in the towns. The fiction lasts, even while they sweat 
blood; the romantic contrast enlivens the stonebreaker's lot. To be 
sure, there are stones to break; but after that there's something else. 
After work you go to town, talk to this or that friend, get clean. 
Look at me, town; I'm a stonebreaker. There's still the fox-trot. 
In town the prospect of change and recreation is always a help. 

The test lies in the settlements. Any Jew has a better chance in 
Berlin or Paris or anywhere rather than in Palestine. For the sake 
of Zionism he is prepared to overlook it; they're always doing some- 
thing for it, giving their famous tithes. Even if they give half, they 
will still be able to indulge in their old flights of fancy. The 
Kwuzah has put a stop to this dance. In socialist settlements in- 
dividual luck is excluded, both in theory and in practice. That is 



the point. The hardship doesn't lie in manual work, as visual people 
suppose who have no idea what the other race is like. The limbs 
do what you will them to do; perhaps, too, they obey a Jew more 
readily than us. Productivity is another story and does not enter 
into it since there is no comparison with the peasant born and 
bred. But the monotony of the program is the principal hind- 
rance to the possibility of getting on quicker than your neighbor; 
and then the loss of opportunity, the dismissal of every egoistic 
fancy. There are no stupid and no quick people any more: merely 
bodies. Machines, of course, are of some assistance; nothing is less 
like these modern settlers than to disdain mechanical aid. But it 
doesn't make things easier. Machines only underline once more 
the mechanical nature of the whole proceeding. By all means, if 
it were possible to invent machines; if only there were space and 
time for speculation! What are the spectacled people doing with 
their spectacles? Where is their emotion carrying them? I was 
astonished at the sight of an open book in the window of a hoveL 

Things are not so bad, people say. The Germans say so, and so 
do the English, On any drill-ground or parade this sport would 
be a pleasure. The Jew has chosen the very scourge whose sting 
he alone can appreciate. 

Many of these people have, or had, the power of establishing 
themselves spiritually; and for this reason it need not be cultivated. 
You may find plenty of Spinoza faces engaged in petty huckstering 
in the byways of Jerusalem, yet knowing all the while what an 
idea can do. Very likely the people of Jerusalem are no better en- 
dowed in this respect than the settlers, but among the Kwuzah 
they would prefer and rightly to feel they were mortifying the 
flesh. They voluntarily abstain from thinking: from real thinking, 
the very fabric of solitude, the refuge. That is just the reason why 
they are Zionists, people say; but the chief thing is what they say 
themselves, which is just the kind of thing people always say be- 
fore they know the facts. The Kwuzah has repudiated religion 

VIEWS 271 

and nationalism; and it is hard to see what Zionist tenets these 
atheists and communists have retained. Are they fighting for Juda- 
ism? I should have thought it was- for the disintegration of the 

Kwuzah and a profession of the Jewish faith cancel each other. 
That is logical, and a historic fact into the bargain. The professing 
believers who took sides with the first communist elements, so far 
as is historically recorded, were Christians. Harnack has described 
them and collected what documentary evidence exists as to their 
rules. There we may trace the original germ of the Kwuzah. It 
was easier for these first communists, for the savior whose bidding 
they obeyed was far above them. Their communism was acceptable 
to their God and earned them life everlasting. It is easier for our 
Sisters; the mother of God kisses their shaven heads and sheds a 
smile over their soul. To the people in the Kwuzah it is not given 
to look for miracles in the midst of their stone-carrying and drain- 
ing. They want to be merely human: a frightful thought. 

That is just the reason why they are communists, people say. One 
can find their like at home and everywhere. You see partisans and 
theorists before your eyes, arguing and striving and seeing every- 
thing through their theories, on which they stand. They are on an 
island, without any audience or opposition or support except them- 
selves. Their practices, even were they less rigorous, would have 
all the disadvantages of simple realism. How strong their dream 
must be! Not the dream that drove them here and was dissipated 
on the day of their coming, but the new dream which is dreamed 
afresh in the midst of tinder and wreckage, loneliness, dung and 
stones, sweat and aching muscles! Does each man and woman find 
a friend in their settlement? By rights, of course, they all hang to- 
gether. By rights they all love one another like theoretical brothers 
and sisters. As long as they don't fall foul of each other, they are 
perfect saints. I can't see it. Dear tightrope-dancer, dear Dervish, 
dear snake-charmer! . . . 


"There's no reason why you should," Babuschka says. 

"Can you do it?" 

"Better than the nun-business." 

"You can, then?" 

"No. Or rather, not by myself, naturally." 

It doesn't make much difference to us how many Jews live in 
Palestine, whether Haifa will become the new port and Tel Aviv 
a big town, and how they're getting on with their fruit-planting and 
cattle-breeding in the plain of Jezreel. Even Hebrew can't charm 
us, as long as they fail to say anything in it that we haven't already 
heard in other languages. I don't expect they will say anything. 
In spite of the Dybbu^ I have as little belief in the future of their 
poetry and painting and sculpture as I have in ours; even less, 
since they are more enlightened and all that lies behind them. Their 
achievements in the usual European directions are precisely the 
things they have borrowed from other peoples. They are not visual 
folk. The action is now taking unusual directions. Everything ra- 
tional or semi-rational in Palestine may go as it chooses. Not till 
Zionism stops being a Jewish affair, a department of the League of 
Nations, till they stop using the settlements as publicity and allow 
their irrationality to become visible, till the arithmetic-masters take 
some notice of unreason and cross out the figures: not till then 
will anything that has meaning for us emerge from it all. The 
reason for disintegrating the Jews is not Israel, but the whole of 
contemporary humanity, with its civilization and culture split up 
by speculation and haggling analysis, deprived of all reason by the 
tyranny of the machine, diseased and spoiled by literature and 
art and a hundred phenomena of the past and present; this sick 
body that can neither live nor die. 

If what streams from this corpse is spirit, then they are fighting 
against the spirit; and it often looks as if they wanted to despirit- 
ualize it with peasant hands. The struggle will not prove decisive, 
nor is it desirable that it should. Moreover no greater benefit would 


come o a victory than the conquest o the flesh by the spirit of 
blessed memory, which luckily does not come to pass. The com- 
batants, however, are staging a new form of knighthood: the 
Paladins of the Flesh. The picture of the melancholy warrior on 
his tired steed, with the banner of the cross over his armor, one of 
the commonplaces with which they used once to dupe our childish 
fancy, has faded; and in its place they have put a spectacled figure 
with a spade, but in an unheroic guise. It won't do. The spectacles 
spoil it. We no longer have a Daumier to immortalize this Don 
Quixote. It is better to do without pictures altogether. 

Today there are two facts: conditions in Russia and the Kwuzah; 
both are attempts to solve the same problem, though their methods 
are diametrically opposite. Jews have a share in both. Their part 
in the Russian coup d'etat is exaggerated by our effendis. If it cor- 
responded at all to the provocation it had, it may well have been 
pretty big; for Tsardom did its utmost to bring about Jewish Bol- 
shevism. They are not up to it. No provocation was able to over- 
come their instincts, which in the last instance were conservative, 
and their intellect balked at pushing rancor to its utmost limits. 
Only Russians could have achieved Lenin's fanaticism, a mixture of 
hate and Utopianism. Russian peasants, who know nothing of ma- 
chines the only people who have never grown acquainted with 
them can be stirred up to a superstitious reverence for electric 
motors. Only a philosophic Russian, as yet untouched by the ma- 
chine, could have conceived the over-romantic idea that the soul 
must be destroyed, and that salvation could come only to a human- 
ity which had at last been mechanized. 

The Kwuzah, with its white idolatry of the child, is a Jewish 
invention. Emotions drawn from old sources mix with those of to- 
day. Naturally it is those of today that strike the inquirer with 
their actuality and that insist on practical farming in conversation 
with strangers. There is nothing to be said against it, yet I can't 
believe in it. I doubt their rationalism, for all that they are spec- 


tacled folk and that Marx was one of them. These outsiders are not 
filled to the brim with Marxism. I believe they are trusting in an 
extremely unpractical Utopia, a romantic idea which is harder to 
see through than Lenin's and also stands higher. The Russian 
paradox is repeated the other way about. They believe in the meta- 
physical power of the clod because they have been estranged from 
the clod for thousands of years, because they have the least possible 
acquaintance with it. Their Utopia comes near to being realized 
in their white nurseries, although their care professes to be merely 
rational hygiene. Lenin, who was suspicious of all cults, mistrusted 


The significance of Bolshevism is not restricted to the bloody 
experiment in Russia; and the Kwuzah is just as little exhausted 
by the agreeable spectacle of the peaceful display of the remote set- 
tlers. It is a Dybbuk played by Jews. Since the Jews feel, in pros- 
perity or the reverse, that they are the outposts of that spirit, now 
run dry, that must be expelled by the flesh of a healthier posterity, 
it falls to them to undertake to set the stage. The contents of the 
piece, however, concern us all, whether we are Jews, Christians, or 
what not. The variations follow of their own accord. You must 
take sides, whether here or yonder. 

"Do you mean we must work too?" Babuschka asked. 

Over there is a large steamer lying outside the harbor; and the 
siren is calling for the quarantine-doctor to let her in. 

"Do you mean . . . ?" Babuschka repeats. 

Yes, I know; but I pretend not to hear and clap the glass to my 
eye so as to be free of all this white-dazzle and to get a look at the 
steamer. Babuschka doesn't stir. 

No, then; no, I can't do it. Too slack, too old! Besides, it would 
be useless. We are not snake-charmers; and I have something else 
to do, I'm busy. We are visual people. Chalom, Palestine! 

I hope there's still a decent deck-cabin. Come, Babuschka! Aboard 
for Hellas! 



X HE voyage from Haifa to the Piraeus along the coasts of Asia 
Minor lasted seven peaceful days. As table-companions we had two 
Frenchmen, one of whom had dined in every capital in the world 
and could still remember every menu verbatim. He lived at Tunis, 
where he had planted vines from Burgundy and already possessed 
the produce of several years in his cellars. "People used to say 
that Burgundy grapes failed in any other climate. Myths of that 
sort get about, one never knows why. Of course you can't produce 
Beaure in England, whatever nos chers allies may choose to 
imagine; but the notion that Tunisian grapes haven't the least 
suspicion of bouquet has yet to be knocked on the head. Of course 
the flavor is different; but why shouldn't it be? There are people 
not perhaps the finest judges, I admit who pretend that it is 
superior. It's different with Bordeaux; you can't take cuttings 
from that. It turns bad, if you send it on a journey." After this 
the gentleman from Tunis confessed that he was not so very keen 
on Bordeaux; Burgundy appealed to him much more, and not 
only as a dinner-wine. As a dinner-wine you might conceivably give 
the palm to Bordeaux, but not for its own sake alone. 

At Beirut we shipped cattle for Cyprus. A whole herd stood 
packed together in the big lighter which lay along our port side. 
They didn't stand on ceremony with the beasts. A whack on their 



forelegs, and up they go! Still on all fours, the beast dangled from 
the gallows of the crane and rolled its eyes. While it was being 
hoisted up they let it bump against the side of the ship. Then 
the chain rattled through the pulley and soon the animal was 
standing motionless in the hold. The business lasted six hours; a 
cow at each turn of the crane, and the calves by two and threes. 
The smell was none of the best. 

On the Greek Maundy Thursday we arrived at Athens. From our 
room, a view of the Acropolis. The house opposite the hotel covered 
the bulk of the hill and left only the outline of the coast and the 
sacred columns visible. 

"Why sacred?" asked Babuschka. 

The house opposite was a nuisance. A crown can't be judged 
without the thing it crowns, and the Acropolis was not built to be 
glanced at from a hotel-window. As soon as Babuschka was properly 
dressed we started out; just before the climb I called a halt. 

"Just ruins!" said Babuschka. Apparently she had put on the 
wrong shoes. I too failed, however, to feel any heart-throb, al- 
though I did not hold it back; and a troubling sensation of strange- 
ness, which had come over me on the balcony of the hotel, still 
stuck. The marble building did not dominate the hill, and seemed 
too small by comparison with the plateau and the height of the 
rock. The feeling of constraint reduced me to silence. Later on 
. . . tomorrow, at all events ... I shall probably laugh at myself. 
It often happens like that, especially with the most important 
things. The heart stops, precisely because you want it to leap. 
The heart is a goose. The Acropolis too small? Acropolis . . , this 
syllable crowned not only the hill, but Athens entire: crowned 
Greece, embraced antiquity. The word lures on the eye, familiar 
as it is with every detail of front and rear, right and left, from a 
hundred reproductions. The word expanded and drew the photo- 
graphs together. Propylaea, Parthenon, Erechtheum, had long since 
become concepts immune from destruction, sanctuaries which 


gained by their fragmentary state. One had never considered the 
stupid mountain's pretensions. All the result of that accursed photo- 
graphy, giving only the part and treating the hill like an obedient 
and picturesque side-wing. 

Babuschka had always imagined it like that and regarded it as 
retribution; what she meant by that remained a mystery , . . pre- 
sumably Palestine. 

The Acropolis is there; the remains are amply sufficient for a 
reconstruction of the whole. It could bear even greater damage. 
Only the imaginary Acropolis, the word, the concept, the crown of 
completion as we had arranged it in advance, lies in ruins, incap- 
able of restoration. Let us be quite clear about it: neither the Par- 
thenon, nor the Propylaea, nor (to my mind) the curious Erech- 
theum makes it impossible, but the total Acropolis itself. (Or rather, 
I am expressing myself badly: let me remark parenthetically that 
when I say "makes it impossible," I should add "for me"; for sim- 
plicity's sake I say "it.") In saying the word Acropolis, one forgot 
the parts which in any case must be seen in relation to each other. 
Although one was aware of the Propylasa and the Erechtheum, 
one unreflectingly imagined the existence of some unity. It is this 
unity that proves the obstacle. Just in the same way one forgot the 
mountain. I have always been at the bottom of the class in geo- 
metrical demonstration. 

When we got to the top the mountain disappeared and the 
buildings spoke out. The sun was scorching; we had to shade our 
eyes. The voice of the temple beat upon one's brain and ploughed 
it up; and at first the sun prevented our choosing any viewpoint at 
all. We stumbled about over "the troublesome stones and the gigantic 
empty space between the Propylaea and the other buildings filled us 
with agoraphobia. Everything was new. Why can't you go straight 
on from the Propylaea ? Why doesn't the great glittering pinky-white 
building lie right in front, instead of all to the right? And why 
that queer little thing, so far to the left that it ceases to belong 


altogether? The big thing was the Parthenon, of course. You felt 
like a visitor to the moon. Babuschka's sense of the site held its 
own. She was quite at home up here, and knew of shady spots 
where you could get a possible view. 

I suddenly recalled the funny phrase of an elderly French- 
man: le desordre des acropoles grecques* The French want every- 
thing arranged to a hair'sbreadth; they would rather have a 
mediocre temple so long as it was bang in the middle of the axis 
of its forecourt. The Frenchman's phrase struck me then as a bit 
impertinent, more papal than the pope. The phrase was not so 
foolish, however; for the disorder is immoderately disturbing. As 
a result of throwing the center of gravity to the right the entire 
hill seems to lean over, leaving the Erechtheum in mid-air. Why? 
Is it chance? The layout of the Acropolis was merely willful, then: 
the shortsighted conservatism of the religious, the petty jealousy 
of the architects and the narrow outlook of the officials were re* 
sponsible for it. Very likely things went on in Athens in the fifth 
century before Christ just as they do in Berlin today. 

Then there is the astounding dignity of the Parthenon. As soon 
as your sight gets to feel at home, it isolates the building, makes it 
independent of the desordre, raises it to an even steeper height. Its 
dignity increases to an almost inhospitable degree and precludes all 
possibility of closer relations with the other buildings. Such rela- 
tions would have weakened it. A style pushed to such a sublime 
height could not admit the Propylasa to perform their practical 
function as an introductory gateway. 

We admire and we remain unmoved. The beauty is undisputed, 
but it fails to satisfy our inordinate affections since it passes beyond 
our horizon. Probably we are hindered by a foolish instinct for 
self-preservation which dislikes being upset; it declares the form to 
be foreign and abstract, albeit the most familiar of all forms, since 
without it there would be no Europe. We cannot bear the purity 
of the extract, and must sully its exalted spirituality with our own 


romanticism, give it a soul: the devout beading o a Christian head, 
a respect for death and the life within. The Christian arms himself 
against these blessed pagans. We are always wanting to surrender; 
that is why we came here. But we don't know how to set about 
it. The temple invites us to do no such thing; how does one enter 
it? The steps to the columns are gigantic; there is nothing easy or 
comfortable about the place. Are the buildings there merely to be 
looked at? 

It is precisely this ultimate inspectableness that must have fas- 
cinated artists; for what have we made of our own art but an 
abstraction meant to gratify the eye alone? At this last result the 
visual man shrinks back and asks for a temple to pray In: a 
ludicrous entanglement of his instincts. We attributed to this exalted 
period a belief in art for art's sake; and instead of being satisfied 
with this somewhat unusual justification we expose ourselves to 
the torrid sun and sigh for a feeling heart. We spy out our col- 
leagues in those bygone days; were they really so certain? 

This Erechtheum, which, as far as time goes, might still have 
been built by the Parthenon generation, follows the spiritual re- 
quirements to such a point that its architecture becomes a sub- 
sidiary affair. The building is put together out of annexes. The 
porch with the pretty Caryatids threatens to come right away. 
That is where disorder lies. 

But the front of the Parthenon! . . . The Doric columns! How 
they stand, how they taper, how they carry the entablature! There 
are no lovelier columns. Their dignity is not ineradicably static. 

I am writing a newspaper story instead of looking. Yes: I do 
admire, and it sinks in. The reddish tone of the marble must en- 
chant even the blind. But what has the Parthenon to do with tone? 
Ought we to reckon with such details? 

We clamber up the stylobate and go round the peristyle, and 
I preen myself upon my Greek terminology. There are wonderful 
glimpses between the columns. After viewing them Babuschka 


runs straight out into the open; I should like to have the enclosed 
space, the holy of holies. While it is easy to reconstruct the facades 
one has no means of imagining the interior. How did the cella 
look: the windowless room where stood the giant gold and ivory 
Athena which you could see only through the opened door? Sud- 
denly the suppliants stepped from brilliant sunshine into the gloom, 
where the statue glistened alone amid the glowing red walls. Here 
yawns an empty space, and the blind destruction stands shamelessly 
exposed. Here the temple becomes a ruin for the first time. The 
columns surround a void: very lovely columns, the loveliest in the 
world, but still mere columns. We have got used to this condition; 
archeology has given us the means to an imaginary reconstruction. 
We know how it once looked; or think we do. Somewhere in our 
brain-box is a cell with the figures neatly arranged. We turn over 
our stock of knowledge, but instead of the room itself all we get 
is a series of concepts. Often, and especially as we are just arriv- 
ing, the figures deny us entry. Wind blows between the columns. 
Afterwards, in the open air, when you stand above the roofs and 
chimneys of the Piraeus and look towards the city, you breathe a 
sigh of relief. That is good, too. 

"Far better!" Babuschka maintains. 

I turn abruptly away from the view and look for the vanished 
room among the scattered remains. Those beasts who destroyed 
that room! Those Turks, that Morosini with his Liineburger lieu- 
tenant. A German threw the bomb, and it is therefore appropriate 
that German archeologists should set the patchwork in order. 
My fury at their destruction appeased my disillusion. At least I 
could point out the gaps. Perhaps I feel no reflection of the heroism 
which once adorned the pediments and metopes; but upon the 
slightest consideration one realizes that all this must remain out of 
account as mere ornamental trimming. Our yearning for something 
to mitigate this rigid synthesis springs from our lower instincts. 


We ought to wash ourselves from head to foot like Mohammedans 
before they pray, and drive out the old unclean Adam. 

I told Babuschka about the Elgin Marbles in the British Museum; 
incidentally there are still traces of sculpture in the pediment. 

She asks whether the pieces don't stand out better in a museum; 
at which I treat her to a regular harangue. She nods and points to 
the town; talks of a gray palette; muses on about Toledo. 

Painting has spoilt us. We no longer see any columns. It is not 
the space in the Parthenon but our sense of space that is in ruins. 

Good Friday Evening, Procession of Lights. They collect on the 
Place de la Constitution. Babuschka suddenly developed a weakness 
for the Greek rite and exchanged the monument on the hill for 
the more accessible hocus-pocus of the priests with their braided 
tresses. It was the first or the second day after the full moon, an 
ideal illumination for the Acropolis. Unless you have seen it by 
moonlight you cannot converse with it. Very well: the lights first, 
and then the Acropolis. We stood in a tight wedge of evil-smelling 
humanity and had to take care not to get set on fire. Soldiers in 
quaint, white knitted garments and round full ballet skirts kept 
passing by. The Metropolitan was in cloth of gold and made the 
sign of the cross in blessing. 

When it was night we went up on the hill. The moonlight made 
the rows of columns seem bigger and now the closed space welled 
up inside the great oblong. The stone draperies were astir in the 
Hall of the Korai at the Erechtheum. The organic shortcomings 
of the annex which had worried me by daylight now turned into 
the happy inspiration of a lyric poet whose poetic material was stone. 
The town lay in shadowy quiet. Countless lights formed the chorus 
for the noble drama on the hill. The Acropolis had come into its 

Babuschka wanted to leave everything to the moon, and was now 
for sending all the lights down into the valley. 


A day later, at midnight, the Resurrection of the Savior in the 
presence of the President of the Republic and the authorities. The 
Metropolitan came out of his Metropolitan church and mounted 
the tribune erected on the square. Choristers in their threadbare 
everyday clothes walked before him. Their poverty-stricken ex- 
terior was distasteful and their singing also left much to be de- 
sired. In Russia, in the old days, the Orthodox church found 
worthier forms for such occasions. You noticed the interest dis- 
played by the faithful, and the basses went deeper. In Athens the 
popular festival swallowed up everything else. Unexpected military 
music burst in upon the monotonous chanting of the Metropoli- 
tan. Mortars were discharged, rockets went up, and fireworks were 
let off in honor of the Risen Lord. While the Metropolitan was 
holding out the cross to be kissed by the President and his wife, 
who was a good head taller than her consort, people were lighting 
cigarettes in our tribune close by. Although full dress had been 
prescribed, the British minister was wearing the gray flannel suit 
he had had on when we saw him that afternoon at the Stadium; 
and that too, when he had been dining at home in a dress coat. 
They have a special etiquette for the smaller nations. 

The Metropolitan Church is a wretched modern box. There are 
a couple of quite small round Byzantine churches, pretty buildings 
of the ninth century or earlier, with tiny side chapels. One, the old 
Metropolitan church, stands close alongside the new. Unfortunately 
only the old facades, with their miscellaneous ornamental marble 
slabs, are intact. The interior has been furbished up in a boring way. 
Who knows what may lie under the whitewash? You can imagine 
blue mosaics on the walls: little treasure-caskets of piety, rough 
outside and all glorious within. A dozen people or so, and they are 

The former royal palace, a stupid barrack, rebuilt after the Re- 
publican recovery, has a pretty garden. On the square are the 


hotels and Cook's. The two main streets ape the big city. The Uni- 
versity, Polytechnic, and Museum are grim pseudo-classic build- 
ings, as you might expect. In the Polytechnic they have started a 
picture-gallery, where there is a recently repainted Crucifixion 
called a Greco. Babuschka is entertained by the shoe shops. 

In order to see the Acropolis from above we climbed Lykabettos, 
the hill to the East, with an unimportant monastery. The long- 
distance view enlarges the city and gives it an unexpected beauty. 
The many commonplace houses, whose sole advantage is their 
position, turn into a flutter of piquant colors in harmonious and in- 
exhaustible shades: a sea of lilac, gray and white, more beauti- 
ful than the real sea, a glimpse of which in the distance adds 
to the effect, makes it richer and livelier. The Acropolis contributes 
nothing to it. It looks smaller from here than it does on the other 
side, still lonelier and stranger, cut off from the rhythm of the sea 
of houses, a white wrack on the tumult of the waves. To be sure, 
how could the honorable remains of the age of Pisistratus and 
Pericles consort with modern houses? Could one expect an 
Acropolis to become part of the Athens of today? Well, one ought 
to expect such a thing, since the validity of a building implies 
such an act of complaisance. The overcoming of such chronological 
difficulties is exactly what ought to be possible, what has indeed 
been achieved if not with Greek buildings, then elsewhere. And 
the style? There is no reason to allow the Greeks privileges over 
Gothic or Baroque, still less over the pyramids of Egypt. Style 
only exists to be overcome. Had the Acropolis grown into its site 
in Greek times it would not refuse to associate today with the 
sea of houses and remain solitary on its height. The verticals 
and horizontals of the marble colonnade obey no law but their 
own and withdraw from the earth. You come to the conclusion 
that another ruin would suit the hill better: one of less classic 
contour, with more flexible forms and particularly one with dif- 
ferences of height arranged stepwise a medieval building, for 


example, like a crusader's castle in Palestine with its arches and 
jagged outlines and intricate plan. Even houses and hovels o our 
own day might very likely fit into it and increase the disorder, and 
yet in spite of the loss of unity the whole might suit the landscape 
better than the magnificence of these columns. 

All architecture can be dismissed by means of this theory. It is 
to be an accident, then, any jumble of stuff that looks well on the 
hill? Perhaps it is precisely as an art that I find it hard to cope 
with; its actuality and completeness obstruct my unbridled in- 
stinct for the pictorial. Yet I am susceptible to completeness; I 
cannot see it from here, but I have seen it. I have only to close 
my eyes and the columns, the sacred Doric columns, stand there im- 
perishably before me. If you think away the sea of houses what 
an effort that is! and think away the hill and recapture the 
Acropolis as it was before you arrived on the scene, who could 
fail to see its proportion, its incomparable dignity! 

Because my enthusiasm is either non-existent, or strictly qualified, 
does that mean that people of today are inattentive? Every Hellen- 
ist would say yes. I agree: one cannot sufficiently emphasize our 
inattention and impotence; but that has nothing to do with this 
long and short distance phenomenon. We are impotent and in- 
attentive, but more capable than any other generation in the past 
of seeing and appreciating beauty, precisely because we have lost 
the means of producing it. We see the Acropolis stripped of its 
mythology, and therefore more objectively; we see it with the 
artist's eye, and only its artistic value means anything to us. There 
is one preliminary condition attaching to its enormous importance: 
we must be allowed to carry off the Acropolis if we so desire. Only 
if it is transportable does it retain its highest and purest value. 
This condition, however, implies a defect in our own develop- 
ment, which eats at the root of our own artistic masterpieces of 
which we are rightly proud, and is due to an individualism which 
for the sake of isolated climaxes dismisses the claims of uni- 


versality. Did such antitheses exist, then, in Greek civilization? 
Does not an antiquity flanked by precipices contradict all our literary 
preconceptions of it? ... I am letting my fancy run away with me. 

The temple of Neptune at Paestum, in the broad plain by the 
sea, is more effective. Segesta, on its gently rising hill which leans 
up against the mountain in the background, looks more secure. 
The solitary landscape today gives the temples a most appropriate 
setting; and I wonder whether the less noble material of the 
Sicilian temples does them an actual disservice, or whether marble 
may not emphasize constructional limitations not only the art 
itself, but the artistic effect as well. At Segesta the rudimentary 
unfinished columns and the rust-colored porous shell-limestone 
contribute to the atmosphere of the building. As it stands there, it 
looks as though it had grown up out of the stony realms of earth. 
It is probable, however, that the builders of the Parthenon would 
have rejected this impression precisely because of its willful pic- 

Every day I made a fresh attempt. Babuschka struck. To her the 
Parthenon was well enough, but she would have no more to do 
with it. An Acropolis means little or nothing to young people 
like her. A person like me gets covetous and dislikes giving in. 
Besides, all manner of consequences are involved. It would be 
simpler to say yes or no. The disquieting part is this Chinese 
puzzle of ifs and buts, which hinders one's habitually spontaneous 
attitude to things and pricks one with doubt and uncertainty. Any- 
where but here one could bear to make just a slight concession; but 
here one's confidence is too unbounded. 

All one's undertakings, all one's enthusiasms obeyed the tacit 
reservation that Greece was hors concours. I adore the Greeks to 
the last possible degree, and yet I remain unmoved by their indis- 
putable masterpiece. Senility, I suppose: sclerosis. Some foolish 
demon of obstinacy makes me stubborn. That agoraphobia was 
doubtless a premonitory pang. If the situation alone were to 


blame, the Theseum, which lies below on a normal site and dates 
from practically the same period and is almost completely pre- 
served, would arouse our unqualified enthusiasm. Up to the present 
we have contented ourselves with a distant glance as we passed by, 
Then it looked like a box with columns, and I made a mental 
note to come again. Today I was taken there by Fritz Thomas, who 
wanted to do me a good turn; he pointed out its similarity to the 
Parthenon. This is very close, as I might have noticed without 
Thomas's help; but it does not save the Theseum from being 
terribly dismal. A box of a certain size and shape; but not a breath 
of life in it. 

Thomas smiled. The Theseum is the one perfectly preserved 
temple of the best period, and in that respect unique. He recom- 
mended me to be patient and try again. You must look into it by 
degrees. Evidently the numerous imitations had spoilt my relish for 
the originals. That would pass in time. 

Why do they always take one for a fool instead of talking sense? 
Fritz Thomas, the son of old Thomas, is an archeologist and con- 
siders the Theseum as a safely foregone conclusion. He has his 
father's quiet and cautious tolerance. His axioms go about as far as 
the year so and so. We had come from the so-called Monument 
of Lysicrates with its little Corinthian columns and its acanthus 
spray on the roof. It is a hundred years later than the Parthenon; 
Thomas knows the exact date. I placed the little building about 
on a par with the modernist style of 1890, not a whit better, 
Thomas smiled amiably. He wasn't surprised at my incapacity for 
such things. His father said exactly the same thing when I balked 
at the Apollo of the Belvedere. The Monument of Lysicrates is 
another of the foregone conclusions, like every Greek work, as I 
say, down to about the year so and so. He can quite see, however, 
that you can go beyond the year so and so, especially in cases of 
good preservation. 

Capacities and foregone conclusions are one and the same thing 


to archeologists, and the Greek spirit equals good preservation. 
It is just the same with the Egyptian spirit. I too have got my fore- 
gone conclusions. One of the negative ones is a disbelief in all 
science which concerns itself with art; one of the positive ones is a 
belief in the immortality of the antique. But I don't therefore feel 
absolutely obliged, when in Athens, to be content with cliches a 
century old. 

Experience is what I want, thinks Thomas, nodding amiably, 
as one might nod to somebody who still took snuff. And the boy 
isn't yet thirty. Of course one then goes much further than one 
really means, and runs away with oneself. He left me at the The- 
seum and went on to his foregone conclusions. Not till then did 
I really turn venomous. Phidias, who made the pediment groups of 
the Parthenon, would have spat at Lysicrates and the Theseum. 
And if the whole of Athens consisted of monuments of Lysicrates, 
this experience wouldn't rob me of a tittle of my foregone con- 
clusions about Greece. What has Greece to do with a couple of 
broken fragments? People like Thomas behave as do good Catho- 
lics, who cross themselves at every Madonna they pass without 
interrupting their conversation. Nevertheless a still small voice ap- 
pealed to my conscience, reminding me of something: of those imi- 
tations which probably had spoiled things for me. 

How odd: there is some truth in it. I could not help fancying 
that this Theseum was not Greek at all, but the result of classicism 
like all the Bourses that they've put up in this style in our own 
day. I feel the difference, of course. At every glance you see the 
superior handling of the stone, the nobler material. But at least 
you have to look; whenever you go away the strange fancy comes 
back like a gray veil. Perhaps a clever man might still build a 
Theseum today out of the same marble; at all events the realization 
would not be hampered by the insurmountable metaphysical com- 
plexity of our cathedrals. Probably the temple is the higher ab- 
straction; you can take that as a foregone conclusion, but it doesn't 


help you much. Possibly it is just this abstract quality that leads 
to the gray veil and the chilling o the eye. Possibly I miss the 
curve. When I was passing the ruins of the Roman theater just 
now, I suddenly felt a pang of longing for the circus at Verona 
and I would have given anything for a glimpse of the Colosseum. 
That is as may be; but nothing has diminished my earliest impres- 
sion of Verona it was on my first journey across the Alps- 
and the Colosseum still continues to grow and to embrace a greater 
space. What does that mean? Feebler synthesis? Or more un- 
bridled feeling? 

Feeling is not required for the abstraction of a Greek temple. 
The young man said something to this effect. Possibly, possibly. 
Certainly the temple's repudiation of the circle is a source of 
strength. I recognize it in a chastened spirit, just as I recognize 
Kant's Ethics; but I should like to be off to Verona this very 

One thing says more for the temple than all the mythology and 
the foregone conclusions of the archeologists. That is its trump- 
card, which will find it many recruits among the faithful; per- 
haps the young man who treated me like snuff has some inkling 
of it: the modernity of the temple. It doesn't go down to the year 
so and so, but right down to the present day. Its beginnings lie 
three thousand years before the Parthenon, when Imhotep the wise 
built King Zoser his temple, and if any style has a future, here 
it is. It is immortal Greek method stands nearer to our clear- 
sighted architecture than our own past. The synthesis of vertical 
and horizontal is spirit of our spirit. You need only do away with a 
couple of heroic friezes, which in any case are merely applied. 
Even these removable additions may prove useful to us. 

If reflection alone sufficed I should be on my knees in front of 
the Theseum; but the visual person can't do it. The visual person 
is a reactionary old snuff-taker. The kernel of it is: I have fallen 
for Baroque and may as well go and bury myself. But I ask myself, 


with the lid of the box already touching my skull: Why did 
I never think of Roman arches or Gothic vaults in front of the 
pyramids? Why did the real or imaginary affinity of Egyptian 
geometry for our own cubism in no way cramp our conception 
of the omnipotence of the Old Kingdom, but rather intensify still 
further its sphinx-like mystery? A moment more, please: did 
Phidias, this man in the pediment, kneel before the Vertical? 

You ass! You've shown that you're only applique yourself! And 
click goes the lid of the snuff-box. 

The resemblance of the Theseum to the Parthenon is a trick 
of nature. They are two brothers, whose faces you might confuse; 
one is a genius and the other a deaf mute. When I stand up on 
the Acropolis the Parthenon and its remains can do whatever they 
like with me. The Theseum, with all its parts in position, unique 
in preservation, leaves me quite unmoved. One would like to de- 
termine where the difference lies, look for the mistake, identify 
the worm. The marble lacks that reddish patina; but the gray 
which covers the stone does not come from the material. The 
error doubtless lies in the proportions, and if you found that, you 
would possess the key to a great deal. You would have to be an 
architect and know how to measure; but that would probably 
involve you in another archeology. I keep swinging backwards 
and forwards between the Parthenon and the Theseum and every 
time the difference gets bigger. The error is a gross one, yet I can't 
lay my finger on it. It must lie in the columns: if not in the form, 
then in their placing. The elements of this architecture are balanced 
on a knife-edge. A sceptic would like to make capital out of its 
similarity to the Parthenon and shut up the blade of the knife. 
But that won't do. Confrontation deprives the Parthenon of noth- 
ing; on the contrary, it confirms our criticism of the period. There 
were dead blanks in the immediate neighborhood of the Acropolis. 
Whether the error rests on gross or petty differences is a matter 


of general counterpoint. Perfection happened seldom, and few eyes 
could compass it. It was just the same with their sculpture: one 
Phidias to a hundred bunglers. The mark of every great period, 
the steady high level of collective achievement, does not seem to 
occur in Greece. All the higher, then, their personal accomplish- 
ment. Only so can we explain the fantastically short duration of 
their golden age. Individuals never last long, and the Lysicrates 
rubbish begins betimes. The conception of Greek form as an Apol- 
line lit de repos upon which you arrive at masterpieces without 
effort, is as inane as the fairy-tale of their gay pleasures and con- 
templative cheerfulness. The Acropolis was built in the midst of 
grievous warfare, and the public and social distraction of the people 
was anything but a natural soil for the development of art. We 
might even regard these preliminary conditions as the forerunners 
of our own joys and sorrows. 

Slowly dusk is falling. I had always been worried by the arrange- 
ment of the Acropolis; and I could not see why the Parthenon did 
not continue the axis of the Propylaea. The little Erechtheum, too, 
never seemed to balance properly. Having walked through the 
Propylaea you must stop and wait quietly. One can never wait 
long enough. Although the Acropolis was knocked into shape by an 
unquiet genius, it was not built for people as hasty as ourselves. 
The interruption of the axis is not perhaps purely arbitrary. Now 
I cannot imagine any other arrangement. Am I gradually giving 
in to habit? The desire to see Parthenon and Propylaea in one axis 
now seems like the demand of a novice. We renounce the obvious 
in the interest of a higher actuality, which brings the main temple 
into prominence.That is what Rameses attempted on a different 
scale; but he ran the risk of brutalizing the whole arrangement. 
Here the ways part. Egypt could hand over all its materials to 
Greek architecture except its sites and the sense of security which 
needed no castle-rock. And the later Egyptians could not furnish 
either the moderation and spirituality or the instinct of the modern 


artist to reckon with the cooperation of the spectator and require 
it to complete his design. The problem of the Acropolis hardly 
admitted of any other solution, if you consider yourself justified 
in overlooking the claims of the view from below. The three build- 
ings are bold yet extraordinarily discreet. They play with empty 
space, and the very smallness of the Erechtheum, at first so disturb- 
ing, favors the total cadence. To make the difference all the more 
striking, it was placed perceptibly lower and the architecture was 
enlivened with the Caryatid porch. The contrast confirms it. The 
difference of height, which you miss from below, could be neither 
greater nor less when seen up above. You might argue that the 
desordrc was really consummate orderliness. Possibly the Erech- 
theum was also destined to hide Lykabettos which lies too near the 
eye and upsets the large outline of the mountain-setting in the 

However generally valid its rules may be, this architecture is not 
for every one. Above all, it insists on being looked at. Stop and 
look at me! And what is more, you must find the point which the 
artist chose for the best view. The feelings you require in order 
to exhaust its ultimate effects approximate to the sensuousness of 
modern masters. 

In such an atmosphere personality must retreat into the back- 
ground; the keyboard is too limited. There was the column. The 
Doric column, the early gift from Egypt, a work of art complete 
in itself, comparable with no element in any other architecture, 
was bound up with unalterable rules and regulations, worthy of 
adoration, but a rigid autocrat that would admit no development. 
Every incursion upon the Doric order must lead to its downfall. 
The Ionic column was predestined to decline. One can hardly 
conceive how the two kinds could exist side by side; one would 
prefer to ascribe the Doric to a period whose world of ideas was 
over and done with when the Ionic came on the scene. The his- 
torical genesis of both kinds confirms this idea. In the volute we 


no longer arc aware of the stone, and dignity has already de- 
parted. An appeal to the lighter structure of the Ionic building is a 
commonplace piece of dialectic. Bach has written enchanting light 
music, but not for the mass. The Corinthian capital turned the 
column into mere confectionery and the temple into a trinket. 
Henceforth there was no stopping. The decline is associated with 
the Ionic column, never with the Doric. If Ionic and Corinthian 
are "to pass as equally authoritative stylistic companions to the 
Doric, as we have learnt to regard them, the Parthenon must be 
given back to the Egyptians as an alien importation. 

No detail of the beauty or strength of the Doric column is to be 
found in our Christian architecture; yet it strikes me that the 
Christian architect stood on a broader basis and explored more 
spatial possibilities, on which account he was able to achieve an 
incomparably richer range of development. This examination can- 
not lead us to overestimate Gothic, if only because the most secret 
enchantment of Chartres or Rheims would be unthinkable with- 
out Greece; we simply recognize more profoundly the solitariness 
of the Acropolis on the hill at Athens. 


A. T first I dismissed the museums, from the same laziness that had 
got in my way in the early days in Cairo. In Athens, of all places, 
one had hoped to do without indoor art. The Acropolis was more 
important than the contents of the pediments and metopes they 
had ravished away. But when one day we saw a big photograph 
of the Moschophoros at the Institute we went inside. Our first 
glimpse was of an enchanting baroque; for by an oversight we did 
not start at the beginning, but at the last room, where the Nike 
reliefs are. Thus the loveliest part fell into our hands first. I don't 
care for the Nike temple, either for its own sake or in any other 
way. It sits on the bastion in front of the Propylaea like the dot 
of an i that has got lost; and I don't know whether there's much 
sense in the careful German reconstruction, since the most im- 
portant part, the balustrade, is missing. This is where the reliefs 
were placed. Unfortunately they are very badly damaged; you 
have to make them up out of fragmentary bodies without faces, 
and shreds of flying draperies. Nevertheless the stone is alive and 
brings out just those Greek qualities that one most needs at this 
moment: human emotion. The hands without arms grasp idly in 
mutual dalliance or slumber among the folds like happy children. 
Breasts without bodies breathe lightly. The best preserved sandaled 
maiden stands for them all and gives out her rhythms in every 



direction. I can't guess what the motif means and I don't want 
to know. Archeology would spoil even what remains. I can feel 
a hint of that rococo of Bach's beyond the cantatas. They are 
gods and goddesses who take on a veiled human shape, human 
beings whom the fortunate possession of pinions has turned into 
winged divinities. 

Beside this music the metopes of the Parthenon the one or two 
that escaped the rapacious hand of Elgin turn to stone. Very 
animated stone, of course, inviting the minutest inspection, but 
crippled by its dignity of purpose, official stone. A genius may 
have composed the whole; but the execution was left to craftsmen 
who went about their business like public servants and said very 
little in a great many words. The number of planes is often con- 
fused, and you can only see the horses' legs, although their bodies 
are there. Where greater repose prevails the relief approaches at 
times a sleepy genre scene. The superior preservation of the metopes 
may give the Nike reliefs an unfair advantage, for their ruinous 
condition indulges our morbid predilection for the sketch; but 
that does not exhaust the difference. People think they have traced 
dozens of different hands in the metopes. The Nike frieze is the 
authentic creation of one artist who was not in a position to impart 
his conceptions to others, since he does not seem to have been quite 
clear on the subject himself. He was concerned with translating 
those postures of the figure into terms of marble, not with the scenic 
possibilities of marble as such. There is something calligraphic 
about his way of carving. The girl binding her sandal grows out of 
the stone, remains clasped to the background, and involuntarily 
moves and turns in such a way that many planes are defined 
within one and the same figure. The drapery, moreover, which in 
the metopes is mainly a dead affair, here plays a positive role, 
organically involved with the body. Once again it binds the planes 
together and lets the light glide in cascades over the limbs like a 
silvery melody which accompanies an orchestra and is accom- 


panied by it. The Nike reliefs are on a smaller scale than the 
metopes and were made a couple of decades later. Their graphic 
restraint could hardly adorn the architrave of a Parthenon. But no 
difference of dimension can heighten the artistic consequence, espe- 
cially if the sculpture is not to be eliminated as inappropriate. In 
the Nike frieze the sculptor completes the metamorphosis of his 
material. The great creator of the Parthenon pediment-groups did 
the same when he filled his triangular space with tumultuous 
baroque. The Nike frieze comes closer to this baroque than to the 
style of the metopes; for the far greater dimensions of the pedi- 
ment-groups it substitutes a more intimate relation between the 
material and the decorated surface. 

The plaster-casts of the pediment-figures are no better shown 
here than the originals in London. One can't, of course, attach much 
meaning to substitutes, but who knows whether a very costly 
artistic restoration could be successful: whether the temple-pedi- 
ment is not after all the only appropriate place, even though it 
would never quite satisfy our curiosity and though it would have 
to dispense with the actual grouping. If only one could be in the 
British Museum for an hour or so! Of all the works of Greece 
scattered about the world, none Is harder to do without. Did the 
artistic peer guess the full significance of his rape? Nobody would 
have grudged him the chryselephantine statue which would have 
been in place anywhere and which would certainly have answered 
better to English taste. Not the sumptuous colossus in the treasure- 
chamber but the three-cornered eye in the brow of the temple was 
the holy place and crowned the Acropolis and Greece itself. For 
this "rescue" I could loathe the English, Byron himself, the en- 
thusiastic singer of Hellas, was only a lord, after all, who knew 
how to sing. 

The rest of the museum is archeology. When I went there for the 
first time I walked more and more quickly through the two rooms 
and hurried back at a trot. A friendly custodian inquired whether 


I had lost something and wanted to help me look for it. In other 
countries that is how one trots through the annual exhibitions; one 
might as well spare oneself all the miles one covers. In the Acropolis 
Museum the distances are small, and in the two small rooms the 
things are not tightly packed. You can see everything admirably: 
the reliefs in a side light and the sculptures in the round from 
every side. They are intimate rooms, made for the enjoyment of 
the amateur, and one would like to enjoy it. How one sighs for 
artists, how keen one is, how ready to listen to the first hint! One 
holds one's heart in one's hand, to lay it at the feet of an Athena, 
an Apollo; and at every step you feel it getting colder, and useless, 

My journey led me backwards from the Parthenon sculptures 
to the early years. As soon as you reach the room where the Ephebes 
are you realize the paradox of Greek art: the earlier periods are 
weaker not really more primitive, poorer in technique, naiver, 
but on the contrary. There are things earlier than the Parthenon 
frieze which look like the imitations of a virtuoso. The two famous 
fragments of horses look like products of a delicate eclecticism 
which flees from nature into abstraction, and uses the antique 
form the immortal form of the Greek horse's head merely to 
stylize it. Style suppresses nature, even the nature of the marble, 
and narrows down its volume into a soapy sheen. There is some- 
thing feminine about the look of them; but possibly they are 

I happened to have a picture postcard from a friend in my 
pocket, with the Bamberg horseman on it. I showed it to Thomas. 

"Look at that, Thomas!" 

Thomas looked and recognized it at once: had even been to 
Bamberg once upon a time. 

"Listen, Thomas; if these little horses are works of art, what is 
the Bamberg horseman?" 

"Romanesque," replied Thomas. 

I made an inane grimace. "Why?" 


He smiled discerningly. "It is the only thing you can say; that 
is the difference between us. One must grasp the categories/* 

The state could build houses on a history of art like that. It is 
a booking-office, a counting-machine, an address-book. I ask: who 
is the man? Does he pay his debts? Is he a lunatic? Can he play 
the piano? Does he like Proust? Would you recommend him as 
a son-in-law? The history of art replies: 13 Friedrichstrasse, 3rd 

The feminine impression emanates from the whole of Greek art 
before the time of the Parthenon, even the famous boys with the 
broken arms, even the still more famous head of a youth which 
seems to resemble the Apollo of Olympia. I can quite see why 
people consider it beautiful; I consider it so myself. There is nothing 
else to do but consider it beautiful. That is just what makes it 
superfluous for people of our period. They produce the husks of 
figures form, well enough, for their style is perceptible, but pas- 
sive and, so to speak, already interpreted form: a mold, whose 
content they reproduce. From the same motives people like certain 
tondos of Botticelli's. The style is genre. The little relief of the 
pensive Athena leaning on her spear, the favorite of every artistic 
young person, anticipates the Pre-raphaelite subject-picture. The re- 
lief might serve as the crest to any Lyceum Club. 

One thinks of these feminine traits as marking the transition 
and entertains hopes of the early period. True value must lie in the 
archaic, if anywhere. The reliefs of the Ludovisi throne dart 
through one's memory, and other admirable things, especially the 
one in the Louvre, the poem in relief: La Fleur Enchantee. The 
professionals all say: Ah, wait till you get to Athens! Involuntarily 
one thinks of the Acropolis Museum as a lyrical anthology. They 
can't all have been stolen, then. If the highest achievements are 
missing, one must look for the average, the norm of an illustrious 

The average exists. Masses of statues of the sixth and early fifth 


centuries, which lay in the debris of the old Acropolis after the 
Persian wars, dispel all doubts as to the character of those works 
which were then thought fit to decorate the temple of Athena. 
They tell us about the fashions of the archaic period; we have ample 
opportunities of learning about hairdressing and clothes. The upper 
and under garment, the pleated shirt, Attic and Ionic, fold and 
pucker, border and hem, tress and ringlet. Soon it all becomes 
familiar, even to satiety. It affects neither the faces nor the bodies. 
The faces are fabricated on the roughest possible scheme, merely to 
show the hairdressing; the bodies if such one may call those 
padded marble members merely carry the clothes. They look all 
dolled up. Was the Acropolis a dressmaker's shop? We cling to 
our recollections; and like a miser counting his money, we recall 
with jealous satisfaction the throne of Venus, the Fleur Enchantee. 
Have they anything to do with these dressmaker's dummies? The 
slightest trace of any real connection would poison them for us. 
No: all poison slips harmlessly off the Ludovisi throne; but I now 
know why I have never overcome a secret anxiety over the Berlin 
seated goddess and have always balked at placing that sumptuous 
affair on the same plane as the quiet reliefs in Rome. Stylistically 
it comes close enough. The lines run in a similar way, the forms 
are related, and that is enough to assure its superiority over all 
the dolls in Athens. One can imagine the Berlin goddess as a 
worthy ornament for a temple, and dwell upon its pose and gesture, 
upon its decorative qualities which is as much as to say, upon its 
rational values, which still survive even when on closer examina- 
tion you think you notice a somewhat mechanical stylization, 
especially in the face. All rational considerations seem remote in 
front of the reliefs in Rome. The artist's sensibility alone creates 
the cult-form. We do not ask where the Ludovisi throne stood, 
whether in a temple or elsewhere, and how it was adored. Possibly 
it wasn't a throne at all; none the less we are still ready to adore it. 
In the cabinets of the Acropolis Museum the ideas, with which 


we toyed outside when gazing at the temple, unexpectedly find 
their confirmation. One would never expect an insecure culture, 
which maintained its level only with the utmost effort and for a 
very short time, to be realized in sculpture. Here they had con- 
stantly to find substitutes. Actually the variations in quality are in- 
comparably greater here than in architecture. The dreariness o the 
Theseum has none of the sting of ugliness. It's a hard job to get 
used to the fantastic fact that the two or three things in Europe and 
America represent practically all the important works that have 
wandered abroad and left Greece with practically nothing, in spite 
of its more comprehensive possessions. Important and unimportant 
are not the adjectives to express such differences; there had to be 
good and mediocre statues, but our concern for order has led us 
to indiscriminate admiration. The great demand required daily 
repetitions. Jones and Smith wanted to dedicate votive-offerings, 
and the provinces had to have their share. Hence these arbitrary, 
commercial, tiresome statues of gods always gods. Our countless 
pietas and crucifixes, those fingerposts of piety, are often dull and 
insignificant, but they are never repellent; and the last and dullest 
wooden cross retains the gesture of the Sufferer. The archaic ladies 
suffer from a banality of gesture. The scheme carries no weight. 
The onus of this failure weighs not so much on the art as on the 
cult that was satisfied with such mannequins. 

You have to grow old before you realize this. This sort of dis- 
illusion is not mixed up with the museum as such. Why not another 
insignificant museum? You have had dozens of them and the 
failures slip away like an idle conversation in a railway carriage. 
The final torment of this kind is always the Vatican museum 
with its gigantic halls; but as soon as you have noted Winckel- 
mann's mistake about the Laocoon and the Apollo of the Belve- 
dere, you are impressed, for the young man's guide-book contains 
the comforting explanation: not originals, but Roman copies. 
Winckelmann did not learn about those glories from the Romans; 


he merely imagined them, and rightly too, even if his criticism 
is beside the point. You could follow his thoughts, and the banality 
of those masses of stone in the Vatican piled up and up until you 
could look towards Greece from the top of the hill they made. 
That was the beginning. Rome watered it down and spoiled it. 
The few Greek originals in Rome were enough to start one's 
sensuous longings in the right direction. Roman copies performed 
the miracle of turning stone into bread; and you never once 
needed the archeologist's powers of suggestion. The amateur had 
a far greater wizard at his elbow: the evolutionary value of the 
Greek dowry. Greek emotion glows in all past ages and even in 
the great masters of the present day. 

I felt like the poet who for years exchanged letters with a 
woman who lived far away and whom he had never seen. In the 
end he could not resist asking her for a first rendezvous. When 
after endless abortive journeys he finally discovered the hiding- 
place of his beloved, he found an old woman with false teeth. 

Babuschka complains about the fashions. The waist is all in the 
wrong place and the lower parts are frankly impossible. All full 
up above, and nothing down below. It's perfectly true. The taste 
of these ladies was unutterable. Their hastily modeled bodies were 
covered by a close-fitting chemise, Over that a mantilla-like gar- 
ment fell in two ends with pointed folds. One end stopped about 
at the thigh, where it was gathered up like a curtain, and the other 
went a bit lower. Their gait was left free. Behind, too, the dress 
stops immediately above the interesting part of the person. Al- 
though the skin is everywhere protected by the jersey-like chemise, 
the drapery, which is also superabundantly painted, leaves the 
remainder as good as naked, The contrast is obscene. Felicien Rops 
has availed himself of such effects. Incidentally it shows up a 
grotesque anatomical build; many of the ladies are seriously de- 

Among the dolls is the bust of a woman with human features. 


She holds her hand before her breast,, and in her hand a fruit or 
something of the sort. The long face escapes from the usual scheme 
and is modeled by an artist. They say he was a Naxian. In any 
case he had nothing to do with the dolls, or with the baroque of 
the later period. You would rather describe his form as Gothic; 
you can trace the way to Chartres. 

It's only a step from here to the Moschophoros. We are near 
the beginning of the sixth century, and the cult of dress disap- 
pears. This is real primitive art: nothing false, objective, only a 
bit limited in scope. From the reproduction one imagined the 
charming motif as much more powerful, much more definite in 
its plane surfaces. The photograph adds tones which one took for 
solid shape and which are quite absent in the original. Actually it 
narrows down to the plastic ornament of a naive craftsman who 
tried to treat marble like the soft poros to which he was accus- 
tomed, and incised his stone. Even the ^Eginetans at Munich used 
this incised technique which did not permit them much scope and 
gave their work a merely graphic quality. The damage done by 
the restorer very likely accentuates the effect. The Moschophoros is 
beautifully modeled, but degenerates too quickly into flatness, 
which explains why we only get the one first impression from it. 
The work does not grow. The motif and the way in which the 
beast lies on the man's shoulders and the way in which his sym- 
metrical arms catch hold of the animal's legs, to round off the 
motif, are convincing enough; but there the matter rests. Its self- 
contained pose approximates to the heraldic stamp. 

Hereabouts, or perhaps a little earlier, we may place the standing 
goddess just acquired for Berlin, which I saw shortly before we 
came away: a primitive craftsman's piece, of which there must have 
been many. The roughly cut ornament of the stiff face hardly 
touches the outskirts of our artistic sensibility; it is a matter for 
pure archeology. This idol-type with deep hollow eyes and the 


blue-eyed Athena! Hundreds and hundreds of years before this, 
Homer sang of her. 

The fragmentary center-group of the Gigantomachy is mere 
ornament. Athena is not striking the giants, but confines herself 
to a hieratic gesture. The oblique parallels may have adorned the 
pediment of the old Hecatompedon in a worthy fashion; and this 
function as colored ornament may perhaps justify the three-headed 
serpent-monster of painted poros and the combat of Herakles. 
If you consider them soberly, these corkscrew-like affairs of the 
early period are barbaric stuff and really belong to an ethno- 
graphical museum. Thomas, who tried to entangle our discussion 
with mythology, developed a kind of excitement during which his 
baggy-kneed trousers took on archaic forms. I was disquieted by a 
culture which could express itself so differently in poetry and in the 
plastic arts. Humanity had long since possessed the epics of 
Homer as a lasting possession while the artists were still stam- 
mering inarticulately in their effort to portray Greek legends, and 
their gods were mere gorgons. 

In the cabinet of the Nike you feel at home, and the museum 
stops. Marble loses its serious rigidity, and becomes an undulat- 
ing surface; and the room turns into an eminently habitable apart- 
ment. Furniture from the pavilions in the park at Versailles would 
be in place here: comfortable carved wood armchairs with curving 
legs, covered with gay mythological stories in needlework or 
Aubusson tapestry. The reliefs would adorn the boudoir of a 
Pompadour: their language is French. 

The sandal-maiden reminded me of a melody of Couperin 
which made me think of Renoir, who loved Couperin. In Renoir's 
pictures naked girls play in the woods as familiarly as the sandal- 
maiden. There is no perceptible connection. It is odd how this 
affinity between Renoir and the Greeks, which seems so close 
especially in many of the later lyrical pieces, undergoes a change 
when you stand in front of the antique instead of Renoir. And 

Sandaled Maiden on the frieze o the Nike Temple. 
Acropolis Museum. 

Stele of Aristion. 
National Museum* 

Archaic Statue. 
Acropolis Museum. 


especially if you take, not his paintings, but those late pieces of 
sculpture, which ought, since we are discussing formal relations, 
to emphasize very strongly this side of Renoir's art which we 
find particularly congenial. You might almost believe here that 
the form is not the vehicle of this relationship. 

Renoir's sculpture is well known to be the fruit of his old age. 
It contains the kernel which we can detect years before in the 
statuesque structure of his paintings without actually expecting 
to see it realized in plastic shape. The sculpture was achieved 
at the moment when the painter's color-sense had reached its 
most fluid form. If the authenticity of his art needed any support, 
it might gain it from this sculpture, so diametrically opposed to 
his pictorial form and yet so appropriate to his vision. I have al- 
ways considered the relief with the Judgment of Paris as one of 
the sculptor's most classic works. 

The comparison with the Nike reliefs rests on two points: ele- 
gance, which we habitually ascribe to the French, is on the side 
of the unknown Greek. His system of planes is carried much 
further than those of the painter turned sculptor whom we count 
among the impressionists; one might even say, judging hastily by 
the present condition of the reliefs, that Greek form was latently 
pictorial and shared all the charm of the surface-art and could 
therefore dispense with those purely plastic moments which de- 
fine space. Both are Baroque; but while the Greek seems to stand 
at the close of his evolution and turns to a graceful rococo for 
which the antique motif merely provides the excuse for a singularly 
attractive game, the creator of the Judgment of Paris seems in all 
probability to stand hopefully at the outset of his career. His maidens 
frolic about in an ungainly fashion, and no Pompadour could use 
their structural solidity for her paneling. He regards the incident 
not merely as an artist, but much more with the single-mindedness 
of a primitive who sat at the feet of Homer, as the blind bard 


who sang the tale of Paris and Helen. Carried away by what he 
heard, he fashioned the legend in clay. 

Not much is lacking; and Renoir has been called more Greek 
than the Greeks of antiquity. 


IT is called the Archaeological Museum: a bad omen. Visual 
people can get little out of it, but psychologists can take their exer- 
cise in jumping like chamois. The results of our experiences on the 
Acropolis are completed in various ways. It is curious,, the contact 
with Mycenae, that astounding zero. The direct, but to my mind, 
brutal gestures of the heroic age, of which the sagas tell us, are 
nowhere to be found, Neither gods nor kings are visible: merely 
pretty trifles and bibelots. That is how, generally speaking, civiliza- 
tions end their days. Of course that is partly due to the accidents 
of excavation; it is impossible to rebuild the crumbled ruins of the 
king's palaces. But every artistic expression bears, in addition to 
the signs of its own category, the marks of the general civilization 
to which it belongs. Mycenae produces an ornamental art in full 
flower at a very early date. They started with the surface and never 
bothered with the form they were decorating. At the same period 
as this refined industrial .art they produced sculpture which is un- 
handy to an astonishing degree. In the remains of the wall-paint- 
ings the same ornamental qualities prevail, but the portraits are 
grotesquely confused. The influence of Egypt is utterly misunder- 
stood; it results in a theatrical style where compactness has turned 
into stiffness. There is none of the prototype's healthy realism. 
(The Egyptian room collected by dilettanti cannot of course give 



you any proper notion of this.) On the contrary the famous head 
of a bull in Crete must be a triumph of dull naturalism. Thomas 
declared that it looks as if it had been made yesterday; and I can 
well believe it. 

The bulging handles of the much-admired alabaster vase are 
grossly exaggerated ears and completely tasteless. There are, how- 
ever, some pretty simple gold goblets in the collection. One dish 
of blackened silver with tiny gold circles or stars might be 
Empire. The most famous pieces, the two show-cups from Vaphio, 
are beautiful embossed work; but the bull-motifs, especially in one 
cup, are in such high relief that they spoil the contour of the 
vessel. Near by are a couple of dagger-handles with minute inlay 
like the fine work of the later Japanese. Not far off is a case of 
little gewgaws in baked clay. 

So far as you can reduce it to order, it seems to have been mere 
window-dressing. At the beginning, the Greeks devoted them- 
selves with remarkable exclusiveness to the surface, and this genesis 
seems to have prejudiced those activities which we have been 
accustomed, since the days of Winckelmann, to regard as their 
crowning achievement. Even when their builders and sculptors 
were at the height of their powers, they seem to have clung to the 
flat surface, in a sense which is very positive if difficult to determine; 
and only under the pressure of rare personalities did their genius 
overstep these limitations. Sculpture and architecture came from 
outside; the surface-art they discovered for themselves. In all 
archeological collections painted clay vases occupy quantitatively 
the first place; and they alone keep to a certain and a very high 
level. Aubrey Beardsley, with whom I, as a young man, pored over 
the cases in the British Museum, gave the vases the highest rank in 
Greece. In those days I thought the point of view perverse and re- 
garded it merely as the expression of a draughtsman who was 
indebted to the Greek arabesques for his own specialty. Beardsley 
was by no means a stupid man. If by "the highest rank" you 


mean the best compromise between intention and achievement and 
the exhaustion of all the possibilities o a given material, the 
criticism remains irrefutable; in which case Greek art must be 
symbolized not by an Athena, but by an amphora. 

As they were surface-artists they succeeded best in relief. No 
Greek sculpture in the round has the beauty of certain of their 
stelae. What gives all their sculpture in the round, even the best, 
an empty look, may be the lack of freedom, the obligation to express 
itself in a form which is not adequate from every point of view. 
Whether the adaptability of complete relief is actually possible in 
sculpture in the round, is another story. Nobody wants a colossus to 
dance. But if their inability to forget the peculiar properties of re- 
lief caused them to renounce sculpture in the round altogether, 
this would be no great loss. Superior cultures have emerged without 
this absolutism. Men have not got their faces in front for nothing. 
A body equally presentable on every side could only be set up as 
an aim in view by a sculpture that had cut itself adrift from 
architecture, or felt superior to it and capable of standing on its 
own feet. Again we are up against an autocracy. The same abstrac- 
tion that harried the temple-builder misled the sculptor too. 

The National Museum possesses a greater variety of archaic works 
than the Acropolis. The show-piece is the stele of Aristion, a life- 
size warrior in full array, stylized in accordance with all the rules 
of fashion. The style is heroic of an official stamp, with great precise 
contours which convey Attic militarism to us. The complete 
absence of spiritual content is made up for by the smartness o 
the outlines. The hero's person is a trunk with arms and thighs 
on which you can count the muscles and veins; and there its 
functions cease. These organs have about as much importance as 
orders and ribbons and are set down as implacably in relief as the 
folds and tucks in the hero's tunic. "Finely executed," says the 
archeologist in Baedeker, and it could not be better put. This 


warrior matches the ladies on the Acropolis. Offenbach must have 
seen him when he wrote La Belle Helene. 

In the relief beside it, showing a runner collapsing, calligraphy 
is neglected, and the expressiveness at once increases. Perhaps the 
animated motif in itself helps the artist. He has to attend to some- 
thing else beside decorations and rises to a greater height of ob- 
jectiveness. Many details remain material, and as in so many works 
the excessively deep cutting of the relief is disturbing. The grave 
stele from Orchomenos, with the dog and the shepherd leaning on 
his staff, is more modest and keeps to the flat surface, thereby 
acquiring a superiority over almost all the reliefs in the museum. 

The artists of the Apollo statues in the same hall shared the 
predilection of modern German sculptors for the prim forms of 
naked boys; already they had made the mistake of supposing that 
you must use an immature art to portray the charm of immaturity. 
Sculpture is content to repeat the graphic outline and leave space 
to others. 

The Apollo of Melos goes to the other extreme, and under 
Egyptian influence looks for plasticity in stockiness. But it would 
be an insult to the Egyptians, even the decadent late ones, to com- 
pare them with this. Even the brutal fellows, who were put on to 
turn out the colossi of Rameses, still retained some sense of form; 
and much later weaklings under the Ptolemies were no whit in- 
ferior to the feminine impulses of the archaic Greeks. Incidentally, 
Greek sculpture reminds me at times of our own Middle Ages or 
Gothic or still oftener of Baroque; never, either in good things or 
bad, of Egypt, not even when the actual proofs of influence hit me 
in the face. By setting them side by side you do an injustice to 
both. The relationship of China to Japan, even in the smallest dose, 
is not in the least comparable. The positive differences have nothing 
to do with esthetics. The Greeks have no more in common with 
the Egyptians than have we, or any other people of the present 
day; and you might just as well set French art and Russian 


alongside each other. There is no question o superiority or in- 
feriority. Everything drove the Egyptian to stone and to sculpture; 
he was born for it. More and more I am coming to believe that 
the natural disposition of the Greeks lay in quite another direction 
and only the demands of their cult compelled them to be sculptors. 
Even in the noble composition of the Eleusinian relief one of the 
few things where your anticipation is not followed by disenchant- 
ment you can still find traces of pressure, and without the gray 
oxidization of the marble, which tones down the relief, it would 
be still more noticeable. Fantastic as it may sound, paradoxical as 
I find it myself in front of this great productiveness and the por- 
tentous effect of this production on all subsequent cultures, I be- 
lieve that the Greeks were not born sculptors. Long habit pro- 
duced in this gifted people two or three talented men and one 
single great man. It was not Phidias. That is also self-evident here. 
It is absurd that anybody could have confused the creator of the 
pediment-groups with the maker of the gold and ivory Athena! 
Since the latter is historically authenticated, the former must have 
had another name. I should find it easier to believe that Michel- 
angelo and Benvenuto Cellini were identical, I have never be- 
lieved in the gold and ivory colossus. Such a combination, in these 
dimensions, of materials which might well turn out all right on a 
small scale, would occur only to a Max Klinger. The museum 
possesses marble copies of the famous Athena. Whatever their 
shortcomings may be and reduction is certainly not one o them 
we can clearly detect that the original was a preposterous piece of 
applied art. "Colossal" applies only to its material cost. The god- 
dess also served as a money-box and when times were bad the gold 
was carried off to the pawnbroker's. Non olct. The cult of the 
Athenians was overshadowed by unscrupulous practices worthy of 
a modern Greek merchant. 

Thomas showed me a great bronze Apollo which they were 
restoring in the repair-shop at the museum: a Praxitelean affair. 


It is not surprising that style degenerated into academicism by 
leaps and bounds. The Hermes of Andros, the Themis, the Poseidon 
of Melos, the Gaulish warrior oh, you Hellenists! It wouldn't 
matter if this excessive admiration were confined to its own object, 
if they hadn't made this sickly falsehood into the corner-stone of 
civic propriety, in the name of truth and beauty, and poisoned 
whole generations of artists; while we, in our own past, possessed 
irrefutable indictments of it in every cathedral and in countless 
churches and cloisters. If you put a decent Swabian madonna 
in a room like this it needn't even be one of the best the slimy 
marble would blush for shame. Perhaps not, though. The spe- 
cialists would always quibble until they found some twist that 
saved the continuity of the tradition. People who avoid the Dutch 
in the Uffizi have no right to enjoy the beauty of the Tuscans, 
and people who try to isolate the universal humanity of Rembrandt 
will never understand him. 

Most of the grave-reliefs at the museum are plastic genre-pictures; 
many are dignified and worthy enough of their class, but that 
class is a theatrical hybrid. Complete dialogues take place on a 
niche-like stage. The real theater of the Greeks was quite different 
in style. The marble vases in the hall of the grave-reliefs are as- 
toundingly formless. Tutchen's gaudy relics belong to an exalted 
period by comparison. Among all the bronzes I hardly found a 
single piece that was anything but commercial Perhaps one loses 
one's eyes at last. 

We enjoy the Tanagras and the other little terracottas. When- 
ever I go to the National Museum to revolve problems in my 
mind I regularly pause among the smaller things. Whenever you 
go near a case, a herd of school boys are on your tracks and you 
can't keep the crowd at bay. They shriek and laugh and tread on 
your toes, put out their tongues and crack foolish jokes. The girls 
behave better. Charming little creatures stand some distance away 


and flirt with the big man; they know quite well how their little 
frocks look and swing their hips to and fro. Suddenly they twitch 
their tunics with a finger here and a finger there and break into 
a dance. The little goddesses sway backwards and forwards, and 
you hold your breath. 

By a flight of fancy you might call them the Vieux Saxe of 
ancient Greece; and you would be perfectly wrong, for what they 
have in common, the reproduction of the large on a small scale, is 
trifling compared with the differences. It would be more accurate 
to call them two opposites, quite apart from material considerations. 
The contrast is social. Rich folk stand behind Meissen porcelain; 
behind the terracotta stands the people. It would be better to com- 
pare this popular sculpture with chap-books, except that their 
artistic level is much higher. Tanagras have a perfectly secure posi- 
tion. They alone give that convincing cross-section of the period 
for which one always hoped, though it is not necessary to come 
so far for that purpose; they illustrate that peaceful, natural de- 
velopment which is not determined by the accidental appearance 
of genius. Considering the quantity at our disposal it hardly seems 
appropriate to invoke the now common conception of personality. 
If there were hundreds of terracottas instead of thousands we should 
reverence them as the humorous by-product of genius. It is a 
question whether the quantity does not enhance their value. In 
these things we find the artistic dowry of the race in its original 
form; and the terracottas stand even nearer to the heart of the 
people than the vases, are still freer of every artistic restriction, 
have a peculiar spontaneity of their own. We recognize the flexible 
talent, with its predisposition towards relief. We also recognize 
its limitations, and need only compare them with the equally popu- 
lar clay figures of the T'ang period in China, which have the same 
tiny dimensions. The plastic handling is equally natural, and their 
difference in form corresponds simply to a difference of tempera- 
ment. The superficial improvisation of the terracottas teaches us 


just as much about the mobility and loquaciousness of the Greeks 
as the gentle roundness of the T'ang figures about the circum- 
spection of the Asiatic. The official votive sculpture in a Greek 
temple stands on one side in an empty atmosphere. The marble 
statue affords an insight into the social forms of a single class: 
a limited insight into a limited sphere. The small terracottas are 
much more instructive. The cases are full of citizens, artisans, 
beggars, lights of love, philosophers, orators, comedians, stout 
girths and scraggy necks, sly and stupid fellows, topers, gluttons, 
pickpockets of all sorts: a Greek comedie humaine of the streets. 
There are all manner of gods amongst them. The Athenians behave 
exactly like the great ones in marble, and here we have no com- 
plaints to make about their fashions. The folds and tucks in their 
clothes, the ringlets in their hair become mere reflections of the 
daylight. The light material achieves the lightest possible poise. 
Incidentally it would be as well to make sure about the area over 
which these trifles were evolved. The complicated relationship of 
Greece with the Etruscans, whose statues interest us more today 
than any other ancient sculpture on Italian soil, may perhaps be 
elucidated in various important directions by these little terracottas. 
If justice were done, the terracottas would belong to the holy of 
holies, and the big dolls would have to be content with such con- 
sequences as falls to the lot of applied arts. Most marble statues 
would 'be little more than the large-size Vieux Saxe of well-to-do 

If the Berlin ethnologist, Le Coq, is right in the deductions 
he draws from his remarkable finds in Central Asia, the Greeks 
contributed to Chinese art. That would not depreciate the value 
of the Chinese, as fanatical students of the Far East pretend, but 
would rather enhance it, for the way in which they disposed of a 
contact which was thoroughly alien to their way of doing things 
really speaks highly for the strength of their artistic sense. One can 


learn even from a feeble teacher. The relationship of Greece to 
Egypt is less positive. 

Supposing the influence really exists, and I do not doubt it, that 
proves that the classic heights of Chinese art, which in its noblest 
works seems like a perfect Europe, are not accidental, but the 
result of an important development which speaks for the humanity 
and the logic of the history of art. At the same time we must admit, 
as another possibility, the remarkable similarity of many Egyptian 
works to Chinese sculpture, especially in their common dependence 
on a sense of solidity and compactness. Greece may perhaps have 
bridged the gap between the Far South and the Far East. 

When I reconsider how far the Greek atmosphere extended I 
always feel suspicious of my disillusion, and I am ready to 
ascribe the apparent poverty of the works in the museum to my 
own blindness. Then I run back again for the tenth time in search 
of conversion. What are my objections based upon and what can I 
produce except subjective emotions and arguments based on inade- 
quate comparisons? Only my eye: the eye of a ridiculously isolated 
individual. This art, on whose works I am casting aspersions, has 
conquered the earth. It would be a foolish prevarication to ascribe 
the universal effect to a few selected works. The Greek style has 
had a gigantic influence. This syntax has been given to people 
in the farthest East; and has flattened out boundaries which seemed 
inaccessible to every other influence, even the prodigious cleft 
between ancient and Christian manners, Europe became a colony 
of Athens, and traces of this ancient past survive to this very day; 
and these traces strike us as signs of the highest nobility. Every 
piece of evidence that allows us to convert a vague mistrust into a 
rational objection is Greek evidence, in the last instance. Every 
fold in the robe, every smile on the face of our saints is filled with 
Greek form. What would the greatest art of our day be without 

This realization is not confined to the history which delineates 


the process of rise and decline in the background apart from 
more positive interests, but masters our feeling, becomes my own 
feeling just as much as the reluctant eye is my own eye. The dis- 
illusionment of the visual man leaves his dream-picture undis- 
turbed. While the Apollos stiffen and the Athenas turn into ladies 
of fashion, I have only to think of Poussin's Flora or a naked 
Venus by Renoir or Bonnard's Daphnis and Chloe, in order to 
reassure myself of the unforgettable spirit of Hellas. As you look 
at the Ganymede of Marees the ether rustles and the eagle's 
wings bear the idol up to the stars. The metopes of our Parthenon 
emerge from hasty chalk sketches of Amazons and leaping steeds. 
That is perhaps the solution of the whole riddle; and those who are 
afraid had best stay at home. No real Acropolis, had there never 
been those bombs of Morosini and his Liineburger lieutenant, 
could replace the one we dreamed of. People of many generations 
and centuries and thousands of years have corresponded with an 
invisible Venus. Their fancy filled in the gaps between them and 
was never wrong. That is worth noting: they were never wrong. 
The academic Apollos and the dolled-up Athenas are quite cer- 
tainly not masterpieces, and the people whose criticism is cor- 
rupted by an idol do not believe in it or love it. So I haven't 
come here in vain after all, and have no cause to complain of 
those bitter hours in desolate museums. Even the Church of the 
Sepulchre in Jerusalem and the church at Bethlehem and the 
stuffed beasts in the trees by the Jordan have their good side. The 
inadequacy of such witnesses strengthens our symbolic picture, and 
the visitor may even find a savor in his disillusion because it stiffens 
his resistance. 


W E have dragged ourselves away and are not repenting it. Be 
the columns o the Greeks what they will, let their torsos and their 
heads and their ringlets and everything else fail us, the country 
remains an indisputable fact and an unmixed blessing. Until now 
we were narrow-minded enough to think only of the antique, never 
of Greece, an artificial view for which of course we had to pay the 
penalty. The Greeks themselves take a healthier view of it. The 
Greek loves his country; nobody is more fanatically attached to his 
native soil. They live by hundreds of thousands in strange parts of 
the earth. Every day we meet middle-class people who have been 
for six or ten years in America and talk a queer sort of English. 
Egypt swarms with Greeks. Far down South they keep their shops; 
and Asia Minor is full of them. Everywhere they make money with- 
out worrying about it and are as much feared in business as Syrians 
and Jews; but for the most part they come back to their own 
country and help it both at home and abroad. There is a Hellenism 
which has many traits in common with Zionism; there is a Greek's 
penny which pays for armorclads and flying machines. The gen- 
erosity of the rich completely outdoes those splendid votive gifts 
which the ancients offered in the temples; in that way you cheat 
the government, and juggling with taxes is the same game here as 
it is everywhere else. If it depends on a love for their country, the 


future of the Greeks is absolutely assured. Their attachment does 
not affect the museums; they let foreigners excavate here and no- 
body minds when Greek things appear on the foreign market. It is 
rather curious, because among the great European amateurs in 
London and Paris and Alexandria there are rich Greeks who collect 
all manner of things. The greatest collector of Chinese objects in 
Europe has a Greek name. On the other hand, they are great 
connoisseurs of their own landscape and feel at home in every 
corner of the Peloponnesus. 

We want to be more Greek than the Greeks, and get our teeth 
into bits of marble without giving a thought to the country. The 
various Apollos and Athenas, and Phidias and Scopas and Myron 
and Praxiteles, are part of the vocabulary of every educated person. 
Who knows Nauplia? The land is more Greek than the whole of 
Greek art: not just one landscape, but the one and only land, the 
loveliest and most varied in Europe, Nature's real success. Hellas- 
Acropolis! We fill our ears with the compound word, for Hellas 
seems too simple. For the sake of one hill among a thousand we 
forget heaven and earth. 

On our journey along the coast we had to call a halt at every 
turn. The one quality in which Athenian art is painfully lacking 
was here present to an extreme degree: I mean, abundance. Our 
eyes overflowed. Abundance not only of changing outlines such as 
one sees on any journey by sea in Italy or along the coasts of France 
and Spain; but abundant effects of depth. Nature in Greece is an 
ideal sculptor. The richness of the shore along which you sail 
is repeated in the outlines and the hilly surfaces of a multitude of 
islands, so that not the earth but the sea becomes the face of 
nature. It is not the water over which we came to the Piraeus from 
Asia Minor, far less the endless sea on our northern coasts which 
begins in time to weary us. When you cross the high seas, after the 
first day the ocean becomes a more or less pleasant substance which 
becomes part of the deck-chair in which you doze (i the passage 


is smooth), a hygienic interlude between lunch and dinner. The 
Greek sea is not an endless element, but a shape, a form o visible 
dimensions, and its riches depend upon the infinite variety of its 
moods. The liquid azure, susceptible of every shade of blue, forms a 
chain of lakes, an archipelago with many limbs; and you get the 
impression of an earth, with all its countless green hills and red- 
dish valleys and the ground itself over which you glide, all borne 
upon the waters. You fancy you have already seen the same forma- 
tion somewhere else and are puzzled to know where it can have 
been; was it in Venice? or in Finland? And then you suddenly 
discover that your experience came to you in no other land or 
at all events in no visible land through which you could journey 
but rather in some rhythmic archipelago belonging to some other 
organ of sense. Such ideas occur to you at times on a journey and 
presumably have something to do with the movement. You imagine 
this flight from island to island, this playing with the water, this 
hide and seek behind rocks and crags, as though you had once 
heard it all in a kind of musical sequence; and however senseless it 
may seem you strain your ear to catch the rhythm. 

Babuschka is reading, undisturbed by my thoughts; now and then 
she casts a perfunctory glance at the landscape. That is how English 
people generally travel. She has got the Odyssey; quite the correct 
thing to read. Once I took the book from her; it's Rudi Schroder's 
translation. In order to be quit of the confounded buzzing in my 
ears I told her about him. When he was doing the translation we 
lived together in a villa in the Genthinerstrasse: four rooms, of 
which he had the biggest. He used to lie in bed till mid-dayit 
was really our sofa among his dictionaries and papers. Paula 
complained about the sofa. In between whiles he played Mozart in 
his pyjamas with his head thrown back and designed lampshades 
for patrons in Bremen which he perforated with needles. This led 
me on to Bremen, to Woldes, to the Goldene Wol\e and the little 
barman with his creaking boots. 


"It's really remarkable how well it goes with this!" I remark, 
pointing to the blue. Babuschka is still at Bremen and asks about 
the Goldenc Wol\e. But I meant the Odyssey. 

We are staying at the nice hotel on the square by the sea and 
have a balcony from which Babuschka is drawing the view. The 
bay ought to be done into hexameters, with silvery metaphors. 
From our square a rectangular bit of a quay juts out into the sea 
and forms the harbor. There is a pile of timber on the quay wait- 
ing for the steamer. Children are clambering about over the 
wood. Over there a narrow belt of trees lines the shore, and then 
come the hills. In the middle of the water, a bit to our left, lies the 
fat medieval castle called Burzi. The clumsy round walls occupy 
the whole of the tiny island. It's very nice to have a fat Burzi like 
that in front of you when you're having tea. 

Suddenly the wind rose and the scene changed in five minutes. 
No more question of silvery metaphors. Now comes the gray salt 
sea which covered the hair and beard of the godlike sufferer with 
rime and cast him on the rocks. Babuschka has to move indoors. A 
real sea lashes the fat Burzi and breaks over the quay with the 
timber. A sudden squall capsizes the pile, and now the breakers are 
doing their best to sweep the planks away. People run screaming 
out of doors, and the belly of an earth-shaking god rises threaten- 
ingly out of the water. 

In the evening Poseidon was appeased once more. We wandered 
about the little town. People were still at work. You see more in- 
telligent faces here than in a street in Athens. The street leads to 
a pretty square at the foot of the tall fort Palomidhi. The walls 
bear the coat of arms with the lion of St. Mark. Nauplia must have 
gone to the Venetians in the thirteenth or fourteenth century. 
Venice is as active here as Berlin is in Venice. We wander back 
to the sea, take the small path between the rocks along the spit of 
land; above us we have the steep castle of Itsch-Kale, and below 

Zeus Temple. Olympia. (Pediment) 

Moschophoros. Acropolis Museum. 


us the breakers. You have to walk in Indian file and conversation 
ceases. You often think you have come to the end, but the path 
always wriggles round the corner again. Round every bend there 
lowered the one-eyed grimace o Polyphemus. Babuschka said the 
same thing afterwards. 

Every day we make expeditions from Nauplia into the country. 
Yesterday we did Mycenae and Tiryns. The lion gate is not art 
of a high order, but makes a different impression from the toys in 
the museum. The clumsy fellows who lived here had to protect 
themselves from their neighbors the Cyclopes. The great graves, 
which are ascribed to Agamemnon and Clytemnestra, have nothing 
of the artistry that led to the Acropolis, but they have a Homeric 
caliber. At all events it won't seem foolish after this to believe such 
stories. You step through mighty stone slopes which provide the 
only ornament for the great wall. In the bowels of the earth a bee- 
hive building is hollowed out. Here at last you strike the primitive. 
It has as little to do with archaic stylization as a Romanesque vault 
has to do with St. Peter's. The form arises exclusively out of con- 
crete requirements. The building is meant for safety and protection 
and is not there to be looked at. Thus the room is formed. You 
would have to pick such a beehive to bits down to the very last 
stone before you brought the room to nought, and that would be 
a triumph of skill, for the blocks at the entrance are not a bit in- 
ferior in size to the biggest Egyptian slabs. Except for space the 
architecture needs no comment. The interior fashioned, it seems, 
out of encircling walls made of hewn stone and dry earth, the sym- 
bol of the inner life of man, on which all true culture rests, is the 
kernel of architecture. The joints in the huge blocks fit; the walls 
are mathematically curved. "Well-built," says Homer. 

Stirred by its objectiveness, one is inclined to overrate such a 
beehive, because one has seen too many unused accessories. Yet it is 
impossible to overrate the conception. I can trace such a beehive 
back to ancient Egypt and forward to Ravenna, St. Mark's and 


Gothic. Our church arose out of just such a beehive. Incidentally, 
they already used domes in Egypt, and they have recently found 
a real vault dating from the Old Kingdom. 

Possibly these vaults were not or not exclusivelygraves, but 
"fragrant treasure-chambers/' as the epic says, and they brought 
there the spoils of their profitable friendly journeys. When a Tele- 
machus came they set torches in a ring and presented him with 
golden vessels. The lively descriptions of the saga ring absolutely 
true. People think they can get round the historical facts, while 
in much later buildings the show-places of authenticated history- 
such tangible evidence leaves us in the lurch. Homer built with 
solid blocks. Why are none of the many Homeric metaphors 
merely ornamental in effect? 

We had breakfast at a little pub on the country road, where we 
and an English savant, who had arrived just before us, were served 
by a girl with black eyes and black hair, full and round, with 
magnificent teeth; she did not serve us like people who pay, but 
like guests. The first things she put before us were water and 
flowers. She was a sturdy, broad-shouldered type with trim thighs 
a la Maillol; not in the least dainty, without frills and ringlets; a 
bit clumsy, rather, but kind, with that human communicativeness 
that often helps a stranger out in Russia when he knows nothing 
of the language. 

The people here are uncommonly agreeable to look at and to get 
on with. They are nearly all well-grown, healthy folk, friendly and 
care-free and always ready for a laugh. In the fortnight we've been 
here we haven't seen a single ugly girl. In spite of their dark hair 
they often have a remarkably Nordic look, since one associates ro- 
bustness with our latitudes. They are easy of address and full of 
natural charm. We had been prepared for a mixed Levantine type, 
degenerate and heavily tinged with their servile past. I have seen 
no signs of it. 

Traveling in this country is never particularly comfortable; and 


outside Athens you never find hotels with Mr. Coolman and the 
Behn family and the inevitable dancing after dinner. However, 
you needn't expect nothing but beggars. There is none of that 
glaring discrepancy between hotel-people and natives that Egypt 
suffers from. Smart people clearly don't come here: what an El- 
dorado! There must be a good deal of distress, of course. Turkish 
atrocities have filled the country brimful of refugees; between 
Athens and the Piraeus there are long rows of huts. But you notice 
little in Athens and nothing in the country; everywhere people 
seem to find their lot endurable. We spent most of our time, I 
suppose, in Messenia and Arcadia. Arcady is no idle fancy. The 
raisin fields were bursting with fruitfulness. 

Landscape and people fulfill our expectations. Of course you 
interpret every trait according to your own taste and take every 
nanny-goat and billy-goat for antique fauna; every shepherd is a 
Daphnis and every shepherdess a Chloe, and every spring bubbles 
over with a Greek lyric. It is much harder to fit in the marbles. 
The friendly smile on the face of every Attic maiden is good; who 
could resist such amiability? But the statues refuse to play up. 
Regular intervals are by no means absent from their sculpture; and 
Richard Strauss, whom we met in Athens, interpreted this as music, 
endowing them in his enthusiasm with his own tonal sensibility, 
so that, as in photographs, the emptiness of the model was an actual 
advantage. It struck me that the intervals, especially in the golden 
age, were disposed too contrapuntally. There is an absence of de- 
velopment. Nietzsche, who has tried to trace back the birth of 
tragedy to music, would have called this shortcoming the Dionysiac 
element. And little as the solution of the problem may be assisted 
by this Apollo-Dionysos antithesis excogitated by a thinker who was 
not very susceptible to plastic art, still Nietzsche's intuition seems 
to have been not unaware of the natural superiority of Greek poetry 
over Greek art. He was mistaken only in generalizing this de- 
ficiency and assigning to music the absolute hegemony. The 


capacities of plastic art in the realm of decorum aroused his sus- 
picions. There still remains that achievement, for which we can 
never be sufficiently grateful to him, of having erected the concept 
of art opposite to the concept of science. As with Winckelmann, we 
can sweep away the mistakes, and there still will remain his keen 
instinct which can always be of service to us. It is always possible, 
after all, to ascribe the unmusical nature of Greek sculpture to the 
predominance of a formalist science at the expense of the dream or 
myth, so long as we don't drag in Richard Wagner, The renewal 
of the myth was perpetually achieved by their continuously ob- 
jective attitude toward life. 

There is more of Greece in Greek poetry from Homer to the 
tragedians, and especially in Aristophanes, and right on down to the 
latest prose-writers, than there is in the whole of Greek plastic art. 
This has preserved only one of the many facets, whereas poetry 
has them all, and in Homer they are all united. The oldest epic, 
whether the form in which we now possess it was given it in the 
days of Pericles or even later, remains in effect the youngest. Even 
today we still read it not only for the sake of its Greek music, but 
with the actual excitement aroused by a problem that closely con- 
cerns us. It is the story of early Egyptian sculpture all over again: 
the artist's incisiveness rends the veil of the centuries and we see 
people we can talk to, a family, our family. The Odyssey is en- 
graved on the heart of a Greek as is Don Quixote on a Spaniard's, 
Voltaire on a Frenchman's, Faust on a German's; and we almost 
feel inclined to assign to Homer's objectivity and his musical 
sequences a degree of completeness above all the rest. In the songs 
of the Odyssey we rediscover the Peloponnesus and the isles, and 
the sea glitters and flows, surges and whispers. In the Iliad the other 
element glows, flickers, and flames with a dramatic vehemence 
that takes your breath away. Water and fire are the objects of 
poetry. The nature of the Odyssey, with its quieter transitions and 
comparisons, comes closer to us; and as one travels through, Greece 


adds a new suggestiveness to it every day. The figures remind us 
more and more of the Greek of today, with his heroism and his 
sobriety, a mixture of magnanimity and crafty calculation, of en- 
thusiasm and dejection. People talk a lot and praise assiduously and 
use words to conceal their thoughts. When occasion arises, they 
cheat in Olympus and on earth too, if need be, but gods and men 
henceforth deduct it all for the sake of music's account. The re- 
lations of the Olympians with each other and with men express 
the social instincts of a people who could not take distinctions of 
rank very seriously. So many gods step forth, and so few priests. A 
privy councillor in his office is more difficult of approach than Zeus 
in Olympus. King and swineherd are good friends. Hospitality is 
always to the fore. Almost more constant than their belief in the 
immortal gods is their respect for a guest, and both are observed 
with like solemnity. Sit down, sacrifice with us, eat and drink, 
and then tell us who you are. It is a simple and striking affair. The 
Odyssey is the epic of hospitality; and every reader feels his heart 
invited to take up its dwelling there, and goes on his way richly 
rewarded. An incessant coming and going forms the rhythmic 
articulation of the poem, and is once again the still valid symbol 
of the habitual comings and goings of the Greek of today. In 
America, in Asia and Africa the Odyssey continues, and still the 
wanderer returns at last to his home. 

In the theater at Epidauros one has some trouble in bridling 
one's fancy. The ruin instantly comes to life. I never could imagine 
the Athenians on the Acropolis: how they got up, to begin with; 
and then, even when they were standing on the steps or between 
the pillars of the Propylxa, they seemed like waxworks, like 
pathetic lay-figures, brazen faces. Of course one easily wipes out 
one's recollections of the rubbishy pictures of yesterday, but one has 
nothing better to substitute for them. The people in the temple 
remain invisible, scared by its abstractness. Everything human 


turns into a tiny mite. Fancy, which sees a Europa on every bull 
along the coast and nymphs dancing in every clearing in the 
wood, runs dry in the Parthenon. Its completeness leaves nothing 
to the imagination. Only look! You have more than enough to 
do. Look and improve your mind and pull yourself together. We 
are pained when we see tourists lounging round the peristyle; 
their mere presence strikes us as an offence against taste. 

On the stone benches at Epidauros you sit with the crowd. The 
rigid semicircle of steps is thickly peopled. Whether they really 
are ancient Greeks is beside the point. Perhaps I am one too. At all 
events no arm or heroic leg stands out, no classic nose, nor artistic 
tangle of hair. Religious excitement drives out these trifles, and the 
masks in the drama down below rob every one of the gestures he 
has brought with him. The hazardousness of the scene on the 
stage which is only lent a tangible scaffolding by the whistling 
waves of the dithyramb, enthrals the spectators and binds them to- 
gether. Archaic rigidity of every sort is here permissible. 

The practical requirements of the open site naturally affect the 
spectator. One can hardly speak of style; only the weeds in the 
cracks of the stone decorate the steps. Do we admire the theater 
merely because our fancy does the obvious thing and takes its 
place on the empty benches? I have never found an empty audi- 
torium very alluring. If you go one morning into the old theater 
at Bayreuth or the golden bonbonniere in the Residenz at Munich 
their rococo rivets your gaze but doesn't enlist your sympathy. One 
ought to have deprecated such a freak of fancy as an offence against 
taste. At Epidauros there was no dandified comedy of manners. The 
dithyramb climbed directly on to the stage off the Greek mountain- 
side and surrounded the semicircle. You believe you can see a sort 
of natural theater that seems to our dream vision the worthiest 
setting for a stage-play; a setting sought after by the dark imagin- 
ings of our desire. It is as though we were in a cathedral, where 
even the unbeliever is induced to kneel in prayer, were it only to 


share in the dithyramb with the rest. Did the like ever happen in 
any Greek temple? We are tempted to think that they brought 
their marble votive-offerings to the temple not from some inner 
compulsion but in order to be looked at and allowed to exercise 
their dignity. In the theater they knew their place and were pious. 
The site gives the architecture its enduring power. If the theater 
were not laid, as by Apollo, under the blue sky, with the long 
stretches of sloping hill for a background, surrounded by the other 
mountains, as by side wings, if trees and branches were not there 
as supers and if the light did not play its part with the rest, our 
fancy would scarcely have so easy a task. The sun hands us the 
opera-glasses, adorns the bare circle of the orchestra, opens the 
entrances to the proscenium, enlarges the ruined stage. Without 
our imagination this would remain mere ornament; yet what do 
I know of the Greek theater? If Thomas were examining me I 
should get an awful wigging. 

Our car was waiting at the building where they have arranged 
the museum; and the chauffeur, accustomed to the usual routine, 
did not include it in the entertainment. Another heap of ruins in 
the neighborhood was waiting to be visited. The museum contains 
the ornamental remains of the old temple at Epidauros. A cold 
douche was waiting for our fancy. This frieze with the lion heads, 
whose back teeth may all be numbered, these overburdened cor- 
nices and capitals and the frightful panelling in the ceiling! 
Naturalistic rosettes are planted in the panels, and only the elec- 
tric bulbs are missing. Skillful hands have chiselled these things in 
stone instead of casting them in papier mache: jewelers' hands, 
which imagined that a cornice was a trinket to be worn on the 
watch-chain. They served rich people whose religion was a frivo- 
lous affair. Their capitals were the product of capitalism. The 
stucco Friedrichstrasse of my young days is here reproduced in 
noble material. This antique stuff is really worse, for it belongs, 
not to a beer-hall or a hosier's shop, but to a temple. I should like 


to have one o the waterspouts from Notre-Dame here. Even on 
a Doric architrave superfluous ornament was already beginning. 
Everything that we know of the way it was painted suggests that 
color spoiled the best characteristic of a Doric capital, its simplicity. 
The Ionic column has already ceased to carry anything, but is 
merely a decorative adjunct and in the Corinthian disorder the 
capital is about as architectural as a bit of carved meerschaum. 
The Italian Renaissance was not a fall from grace. When force de- 
parted with the Cinquecento, taste and a feeling for material still 
survived; many classic pilasters in the old parts of Paris surpass 
their originals. 

Marble, that medium that lends itself only too readily to the 
abstract, led the Greeks to an art of plaster. The severe beehives 
remained an ineffectual accessory. Too quickly they came to know 
of the discoveries of the Egyptians. Between the early cyclopean 
buildings and the Doric temple the native connecting link is 
missing. Eclecticism interposed and overburdened even the age of 
Pericles. A hundred years later there is hardly anything but rubbish. 

The common comparison of the relations between Egypt and 
Greece leaves out of account one element to which a misguided 
idealism attaches too little importance: I mean material. The 
Egyptians were stonecarvers. That determined their style and was 
actually of greater consequence. Stone kept them straight long 
after their art had ceased to be creative. Even in their decline they 
remembered the pyramids. We turned away in disgust from the 
temples of Rameses, because we had the tradition of the early 
dynasties before our eyes. Today we are almost sighing for Karnak. 
Those barbarously overloaded temples will always yield a mighty 
kernel. A Greek temple, on the other hand, stands or falls ac- 
cording to its completeness. We shall never be able to gauge 
properly the purely creative part played by Greece owing to 
our scanty knowledge of the relations between Greece and its 
predecessors, especially as we lack much important evidence for 


periods of Egyptian art which we have to regard as classic. Since 
at present the Doric style is regarded as exclusively Greek, the 
Greek contribution is rated altogether too high. The Acropolis 
did not spring from the head of Zeus. On the contrary, we must 
always celebrate the .step from the buildings of the New Kingdom 
to the Parthenon as the transition from brutal strength to domineer- 
ing orderliness, as the triumph of a higher culture. Compared with 
the later Egyptians, the Greeks were, as architects, far more artistic 
and far more spiritual, but their spirituality was achieved at the 
expense of richness of content. You might say that they did not 
build with their hands, but with their heads. They were born for 
things which, to the Egyptians, remained shadowy and abstract. 

Humanity has shared out its problems in a marvelously eco- 
nomical way. To the Egyptians we are indebted for the discovery 
of how to use space. Their buildings and their statues are above 
all plastic, though we are yielding uncritically to their overpower- 
ing dimensions when we ascribe to them no more than a single 
style. On the other hand, their poetry is the thinnest of filigree- 
work, stylized ornament without backbone or structure. Among the 
Greeks, space is flattened out into silhouette, and sculpture turns 
into relief. They preferred their art in written form; to which end 
they created tragedy, which embraces the whole earth. 

The most cogent undertaking would be a campaign against 
science: to determine its ravages in every civilization; to denounce 
its lascivious concubinage with art, which can only be called a 
public scandal; to show what is hidden behind continuity and com- 
pleteness and to expose this mania for collecting every accessible 
lion-mask ornament and describing the whole assemblage of lion- 
masks as antiquity. They divide up a country, a people, a creative 
complex into the tiniest possible particles and then inundate it to 
such an extent with these particles that the complex, qua country, 
people, or social ordinance, disappears. They stop at the capital 


instead of the column, at the column instead of the temple, at the 
temple instead of art, at art instead of humanity. Their colleagues 
in the other faculties have nothing better to do than to pick Homer's 
epics to bits in order to prove that the poet never existed, because 
a lion-mask here or there was corrected in later times. Now the 
learned do at least seem to have arrived at the conclusion that the 
creator was a poet. It's the same with Christ. 

Thomas turned the spear in the wound and described me as a 
renegade without naming the standard which he accused me of 
deserting. He declared it would not be too much to call my ob- 
jections to the antique not only groundless but positively subversive. 

My objections to the antique! So merely looking at the antique 
is subversive; and it is treachery to say that the antique is some- 
thing of more value than an arbitrarily limited geographical dia- 
gram, to discover Doric columns on the Nile, Greek formation in 
the stone saints of a northern cathedral, and Greek freedom in every 
gracious shape, and to own a clean and orderly vision of the antique 
which rises above lion-masks. 

The other day I met a historian of the new school with Thomas, 
and we talked about Hegemann's Fridericus, the book we used to 
read in our little boat on the way up to Nubia. The professor ob- 
served that what this architect gave out as his own invention had 
long been known to them all. 

The tone in which he said "architect" squashed the author of 
Fridericus as flat as a pancake; and I hastened to assure the pro- 
fessor that I regarded Hegemann's profession as an architect as the 
most positive safeguard for the validity of his conclusions, which in 
any case did not claim the halo of an invention, since they were 
based on documentary evidence. Clearly Hegemann was indebted 
to architecture for his insight, his knowledge of what was import- 
ant. This piece of knowledge was not identical with the science 
of our professional historians, otherwise the extremely fragmentary 
Prussian legend would not continue to be repeated in schools and 


high schools and on a hundred and one more or less serious oc- 
casions. On account o these lacunas only practicing architects 
ought to be appointed to fill chairs of history. 

Thomas suddenly sprang up. He could not understand why it 
was necessary for us Germans to belittle a heroic figure which was 
dear to us and which Menzel had glorified once for all with ex- 
emplary accuracy. The gentleman's arguments were the merest 
trifles. His spectacles glistened. 

My sweet Thomas! My funny Thomasissimus, do just look! 
Suddenly he was all for the strictest synthesis and repudiated vision- 
ary history. Not only had he never read Hegemann, but he regarded 
our suggestion that he might have read him as an unpleasant 
aspersion on him. Even unread, Hegemann's arguments were in- 
significant. You could pick Homer to bits and call Christ patho- 
logical and Dostoievski a ravisher and a murderer; but old Fritz 
was hors concours for us Germans, at all events. The discussion 
threw sudden shafts of light over the dark landscape. But supposing 
it had occurred, not just to Hegemann, but to another or many 
others, and not only to us Germans but to people all over the place, 
to reckon the real Frederick, the bold adventurer, the man of 
might, the misanthrope, the master of intrigue, this mixture of 
artist, king and Marquis of Keith, as greater and incomparably 
more interesting than the bewigged father of his country and Prus- 
sian hero? What then? 

Thomas did not deign to answer me, being absorbed by feelings 
which were not propitious to me. I must confess I found him almost 
attractive, partly because it comforted me to catch him, partly be- 
cause however wrong he was when I caught him, he always dis- 
played a certain human warmth. If he really practiced archeology 
as a hero-cult not as a science, if these people could really imagine 
a Greece any Greece, however improbable as a living whole, it 
would be easier to bear with them. Their most fatal error is their 
low temperature. 


WE are staying alone in the roomy guest-house and are think- 
ing with some satisfaction o the crowds in Athens. There isn't 
even a single archeologist here. A bush has thrust its red flowers 
in at my window. Gentle hills with cypresses and pines soothe your 
eye. The Alpheios flows quietly through a secluded valley, and 
more silvery hills mount up again on the other side. The landscape 
is not so utterly different from our own as that of Egypt, for in- 
stance, where you can't take a step without feeling that you're in 
another quarter of the globe; it is merely that nature is somewhat 
less generous in the North. She gets along with one valley or one 
hill whereas here there have to be three or four and draws our 
outlines more sharply and doesn't allow herself little luxuries like 
planes. It wouldn't be fair to accuse her of niggardliness, for she 
has treated us generously in the matter of rivers and large forests. 
In our forests you can walk and dream and find shade on every 
side. From a distance, however, our woods look like the fine crop 
of hair on a healthy thick skull. We are treated like peasants in 
wooden clogs. In Greece they have taken more care. The vegeta- 
tion is sketched in with the tip of a pencil; and the outline of every 
hill betrays the hand of an artist who worked, not to please a mob 
for practical reasons, but to satisfy himself, even lavishing his care 
on the remotest corners where nobody can follow him. Claude had 



a hand in it, and so had Corot: Claude in the great smooth sea, 
and Corot in those precise little corners inland and in the figures. 
Neither set foot on Greek soil, but they sighted Greece from the 
Roman Campagna or from Ville d'Avray, though you often fancy 
you can determine the exact spot where their easel stood. The il- 
lusion is due to the circumstance that the important thing about 
this landscape is that instead of gripping it tight you can let it go 

One procrastinates somewhat in doing one's duty toward works 
of art, and is disillusioned. In the presence of such a landscape 
composed by the hand of genius it would be hard to pay due at- 
tention even to a Claude or a Corot; it is a bit easier to cope with 
sculpture, since the contrast of the rigid material disposes of all 
substitutes that might try to encroach upon one. It is always a 
question of music and rhythm. 

The craftsmen who made the pediment-groups are far more 
sympathetic than the archaic manufacturers, who were content with 
supplying costumes and coiffures, with a smile thrown in gratis. 
These people took their business more seriously; they were rough 
sons of the land, simple and unspoilt. I see them in wooden clogs. 
They went in for a good rough and tumble with the Muses, like 
young peasants, who had turned artist in town and kept their 
countrified ways even as professors. Since the pediment is three- 
cornered and highest in the middle, that is the place for Apollo, the 
god of the festival; and since people want the famous fight between 
the Lapithae and Centaurs, the thing to do is to place these beast- 
men on either side of the god of the festival, to act as pendants 
when seen from a distance. They manage as best they can, and let 
the combatants belabor each other with their hard fists. Other 
figures are occupied in watching the affray, kneeling and finally 
lying down, in proportion as the space in the pediment dwindles 
down to a point. The devil alone could manage such a triangle. 
Repose was prescribed for the other pediment: Zeus and various 


gods and heroes. Again they haven't wasted much thought over the 
composition, but have merely arranged the people in question in 
a row. Zeus, as the greatest, naturally comes in the middle; then the 
others, to right and left, dwindling in size according to their im- 
portance. But for the horses it would have been an awkward busi- 
ness. The figures present themselves like actors in front of the cur- 
tain, and (Enomaus beckons: This way please, gentlemen! 

It is an odd mixture of the rustic and the academic. They could 
never have devised this out of their own heads, but followed the 
examples in the town. Fortunately, however, the dryness of the 
academy did not come through. Many different hands have been 
traced. Some of them had talent; you notice it especially in two 
kneeling figures. All found the marble an obstacle. If they had been 
allowed to do it in clay or in the soft poros-stone of their forbears, 
the gods might have turned out a bit more human. Always the 
same unfortunate passion for marble. 

The remains of the metopes are mainly picture-puzzles for the 
archeologist. The famous Atlas metope has simplicity to recom- 
mend it. That is how children look at history; and if a childlike 
attitude can help a Claude or a Corot, why not the Olympia artist 
too? It must appear, however, in the form as well. Here it is con- 
fined to the composition; and the execution in marble is under- 
taken by a full-grown craftsman with all too academic propensities. 

There is a beautiful work outside the series from the temple; 
the Nike of Paionios, which is several decades later. It hasn't the 
vigor of that tempestuous Nike on the staircase in the Louvre, the 
only work that amply compensates for your disappointment at a 
thousand insufficiencies; it has most of the easy grace of the sandal- 
maiden on the Acropolis, of the quieter florid baroque which the 
Frenchmen Goujon and Germain Pilon inherited from Greece, 
and of which a last flicker descended to our own Gottfried Schadow. 
The surface-play in the relief of the sandal-maiden is not com- 
pletely translated into the round, and only the fragmentary con- 


dition helps us over many weaknesses. The hands and the billow- 
ing veil which broke the swing of the drapery must certainly have 
been disturbing. I the Nike held a branch in one hand and held 
up her veil with the other, as is shown doubtless rightly in the 
reconstruction set up nearby, the rhythm can hardly have avoided 
the commonplace; in which case it would be fairer to name as its 
descendants, not the masterpieces of the French Renaissance, but 
Carpeaux's light-footed dancers in front of the Paris Opera. 

We wandered about among the ruins. This area has great charm, 
especially if you don't give yourself a headache in trying to make 
out to which temple the remains belong. In a special little building 
behind the museum you find the great attraction of Olympia, a 
naked standing woman without feet, but with explicitly masculine 
attributes, all done in soapy marble. She has a baby on her arm, 
and is at present standing in a pile of cement in order to conceal 
the missing portions of her legs. The style reminds one of many 
things by the Berlin master, Reinhold Begas. When we realized 
that this was the Hermes of Praxiteles, we beat a hasty retreat 

Without the landscape and without Homer it wouldn't have 
been worth while. Homer is the more positive reason, for one can't 
help using him as a key. One would hardly follow nature so obedi- 
ently, were it not for the inducement she offered us, at the bidding 
of Homer and his followers, to build up the imperishable temple. 


AFTER a long railway journey we arrived here in the late after- 
noon and went for a walk along the causeway by the canal A large 
steamer happened to be passing by, and from a distance it looked 
exactly as though it were walking along the street. The landscape 
here has more pathos, more line: is less idyllic. Corot has dis- 
appeared and Claude is the sole composer. The new Corinth 
spreads down to the sea, but has not yet pulled itself together and 
straggles shapelessly about, like an improvisation of some hasty 
settlers who are going off again in the morning. 

On the following morning we went up to the old Corinth, The 
town was more beautifully placed than Athens and formed a great 
theater. The almost circular chain of mountains surrounds the 
widely spreading plain, like an orchestra with the sea as the stage 
and the castle of Acrocorinth as the back wall The temple stood 
in an ideal situation, not too near the sea and not too near the wall 
of mountains. Even today the seven heavy columns which are 
still standing the only verticals in the gigantic plain act as in- 
dispensable connecting links between the castle and the sea. 

Of the many periods that devoted their attention to the Fountain 
the Roman was certainly the best, with its round arches in front 
of the playful Ionic wall and its charming niches. One can still 



feel its intimate and peculiar charm, though the Byzantines spoiled 
it a good deal with their ridiculous columns. 

No doubt we ought to have climbed up to the castle, but we 
were too lazy. 


VV 'VE been back in Athens for a week. Strauss is still here. We 
met him one evening when he dined with the German charge 
d'affaires. Some very agreeable Greeks, who all spoke excellent 
German, were there too; the Germans were Thomas and a Vien- 
nese architect with his pretty wife. The Greeks, mostly politicians, 
were remarkably well up in the art treasures of Greece; and one ex- 
minister knew every morsel of the antique. The minister of agri- 
culture talked about Crete like a learned archeologist. Strauss was 
enthusiastic. He has given several successful concerts and is busy 
with his opera Helena. Every one expressed the same enthusiasm 
for us, and of course I let it pass. Thomas, who had kept in the 
background for some time, smiled dejectedly when I looked at 
him, and was actually heard to say that I had come on a bit in the 
meanwhile. His thick spectacles glistened and his shirt bulged out 
of his dinner jacket. Babuschka was close by and looked my way, 
I felt like some one who had broken his oath and drank an in- 
ordinate amount. Strauss is good at admiring; I believe he enjoys 
his admiration more acutely than the object that arouses it, I un- 
folded the landscape, discoursed on the people. That pleased the 
Greeks though Thomas pulled a wry face. Strauss nodded. The 
landscape, of course, and especially the way the temples stand in 
it. The temples provided the human voice, the landscape the or- 



chestra. To Strauss's surprise I suddenly contended that Homer 
no longer had a place, although I blushed before Babuschka. The 
Apollo of Olympia was the climax, to Strauss's mind; though 
perhaps the Hermes of Praxiteles might be more to our taste. 
Babuschka coughed, Thomas glowed, and I buried my nose in my 
glass. Finally my gratitude overflowed. Greece was wonderful, and 
it was a shame to let stupid stories detract from the wonder of it 
all. Every one present congratulated me on my perspicacity, espe- 
cially those wonderful Greeks; and I should have dearly loved to 
straighten Thomas's shirt which gave him a bosom. 

Then Strauss asked me about Egypt; and it transpired that he 
had once been there himself, A wonderful difference between the 
stiff pose of the Pharaohs and the animation of the Greeks! They 
all agreed with him, of course. He was at the conductor's desk, 
baton in hand. Famous musicians are always right. Could you 
expect Greeks to pass an objective judgment on Greece? Any at- 
tempt in this direction would be sure to end in disaster, courteous 
as all the people present were. But our Egypt! Zoser stiff? Cheops 
attitudinizing? And our Family! Nobody knew our Family, or 
Zoser either. Babuschka offered to fetch the photographs from 
the hotel and I had half a mind to try it myself for a minute or 
two. But photographs would never have convinced them. Photo- 
graphs only do justice to Greek sculpture and pictures by Bocklin. 
We contented ourselves with a quiet smile. 

At this moment Thomas broke in and fell foul of my comparison 
with Bocklin. I couldn't think of anything to say to him. Of course 
you couldn't take the camera's efforts as your criteria. Incidentally 
his shirt was swelling out like an air-balloon. Strauss remarked 
that the Cairo museum had made no impression on him; and the 
charming Greek, who knew every antiquity in the province said 
the same. The minister of agriculture confirmed it. 

I am not surprised. The Cairo museum is a magazine, a barn, 
a disgrace. I pitched into the museum as if it were Thomas. This 


museum tells us nothing about Egypt, but a lot about the im- 
potence of accredited historians. I enlarged upon this theme, spat 
venom and indulged in word-play. These functionaries were fic- 
tionaries. Things might have gone differently with Strauss if he had 
been at work on an opera about Hatshepsut. 

I was talking nonsense, and knew it. Strauss questioned the re- 
marks I made, though naturally every artist has the right to take 
what he needs* At all events he agreed that the pyramids held good. 
Look here! Leave them alone; of course they hold good! Perhaps 
it would be better not to talk about the pyramids and to reserve 
one's tolerance for more appropriate objects. There was real hatred 
in my voice. Why, these men were, so to speak, the inventors of 

Now it was the Viennese architect's turn. He had a great re- 
gard for my books on painters, but it was impossible, with the 
Acropolis in front of one, to talk of another architecture whose 
only claim to fame was its extreme age. 

The Egyptian-Doric column was on the tip of rny tongue; but 
I thought it wouldn't do to go into it now, in view of the likeli- 
hood of its carrying our conversation, already unsociable enough, 
still further beyond the appointed limits. So I gulped back the 
Egyptian-Doric column and washed it down with champagne. 
Afterwards Babuschka accused me of deserting the colors. It 
weakened my position in the architect's eyes, for he now wasn't 
obliged to go beyond the pyramids, and they were merely a matter 
for the desert, as everybody knows. On this point I agreed with 
Strauss, who was talking sense. He was rambling among his recol- 
lections. One had to have seen the pyramids. There was warmth 
in his voice and I felt as though he were talking of my family 
home. I couldn't help giving him a look of heartfelt gratitude. 
I never looked at the architect again. 

In any case, Strauss added, one mustn't forget that the site of 


these imposing erections on the edge of the desert counted as an 
unusual local advantage, 

My blood ran cold. And wasn't the site of the Acropolis an ad- 
vantage too? 

A magnificent advantage, Strauss agreed. 

They were all on his side, of course. All the Greeks nodded, and 
so did all the Germans. Table, chairs and cabinet nodded. 

All the same, thought Strauss, to a certain extent one can ignore 
the situation. 

Aha! escaped from me. 

For wherever they put the Acropolis, they would sanctify the 

Bravo! sounded on every side, and that swine Thomas said: 
Quite true! 

Oh, Thomas! I beckoned to him. Put your shirt in! I exclaimed 
wildly. The architect advanced upon me, and I pulled myself to- 
gether. The site of a work was part of the creator's idea. The 
position of the pyramids on the edge of the desert seemed to me 
as much of advantage to them as the position of the Acropolis was 
disadvantageous. One might even speak of a certain disorder. A 
very acute Frenchman had once spoken of Ic desordrc des acropoles 

He smiled. The view was familiar to him; and once again he 
told me how much he liked my books on painters. One must go 
back to the plan. Had I seen Eleusis? Given the plan, he could 
reconstruct the whole votive-temple. Unless you were able to "read 
the score" of a building, you couldn't judge it adequately. 

Strauss was delighted with the expression: "the score of a build- 
ing." I inquired whether he thought it was necessary to read the 
score before you could judge an opera. 

"Necessary!" He hesitated. "Not exactly necessary." 

"Yes, or no, please!" 

"Not even for an exhaustive estimate?" asked the architect. I 


behaved as though I didn't care any more and drank another glass. 
It cooled my throat. My hostess, a charming woman, poured me out 
another and seemed to me like a good angeL 

"Don't you think it's all nonsense?" I asked, 

"What do I think nonsense?" 

"I beg your pardon." 

At all events, Strauss said, people wouldn't judge Richard Wag- 
ner so unfavorably as it was now the fashion to do if they could 
read his scores* 

The column was on the tip of my tongue again, but the last 
glass had taken away all my earthly cares; and when the architect 
pointed out to me that I couldn't really deny the beauty of the 
Parthenon, I heartily agreed with him. The Parthenon (tra-la) had 
nothing to do with the case. The remains of the column were still 
in my mouth. Meanwhile Strauss was praising Wagner's or- 

"Excuse me," said the architect, "but it would greatly interest 
me from a psychological point of view to hear your objections." 

Objections! Objections again! Why, merely the deluding of the 
instincts. All this de-de-delusion led to the world war. Besides, I 
can't stand that abandoned sensuality. 

The architect's eyes started out of his head; and Babuschka 
hastened to explain to him that I was talking about Wagner, not 
the Acropolis. 

Babuschka has a bump of locality and is always right; I believe 
she could even read the sc . . . sc . . . score of a building. 

The nice Greek invited us to go with him to Cape Sunion. A 
splendid idea! Ahoy for Cape Sunion! I was in a Dionysiac mood. 
To my disappointment I discovered that we should have to wait 
a day or two. 


THE Greek genius doesn't leave of! at ancient temples and 
statues. The antique occupies only the immediately accessible part 
of its circumference: the material part, as one might say. Measured 
by time and space it appears as the smaller part; for it is limited 
by the end of pagan civilization. For people of our day the existence 
of Greece subsequent to antiquity is the greater miracle. 

On the way from Athens to Eleusis lies the one spacious and 
wealthy monastery in Greece: Daphni. In the church there they 
have discovered and laid bare Byzantine mosaics of the eleventh 
century. Only large fragments, unfortunately. They resemble those 
in Venice especially the large mosaic with the striding Christ 
awaking the dead, on the facade at Torcello but are a little less 
vehement and a trifle more lively. You feel the antique origin of 
mosaic more plainly at Daphni than in Italy, from their less violent 
alertness, their hidden Attic smile perhaps it is merely, the effect 
of livelier color their attitudes which explain rather than com- 
mand. Only the bust of the bearded Christ in the dome has the 
absolutely ineluctable solemnity of a religious conviction which 
destroys man's dream and imposes duties upon him. 

You react almost automatically to these mosaics, and submit to 
their emphatic injunctions without an attempt at resistance; whereas 
any painted easel picture, of whatever period, must first substanti- 



ate its claims upon your attention. We allow ourselves to dispute 
with Raphael, investigate his degree of intensity, consult our mem- 
ories to see whether the motif has been used before, and condemn 
the treatment as feebler. We are petty and lacking in piety and are 
always qualifying even our masterpieces. A mosaic passes unchal- 
lenged, and although it generally repeats something that has been 
said before, you take off your hat every time and believe that a 
new revelation has been vouchsafed to you. The origin of these 
pictures is known. Very much belated successors of the Greeks 
to whom we are indebted for the statues and temples put the 
pictures together out of little bits of stone: anonymous and com- 
pletely impersonal craftsmen. Their art does not enter into it at all. 
An atom of this stiffness would be enough to make us attack and 
condemn the productions of the same race, on the same soil, fifteen 
centuries earlier; and the mechanical craftsmanship unenlivened 
by any personal touch, which we find so utterly satisfying in the 
mosaics, would strike us as the sin against the spirit of art if it 
were to show itself in antique sculpture, and no glamor of mere 
age could dull our sensibility. 

Mosaic is not in itself responsible for this extraordinary effect, for 
we do not react so obligingly to antique mosaic decorations. Pagan 
mosaics always have something commonplace and degenerate about 
their handling; many a visitor is left cold by the naturalism of the 
Battle of Alexander in the Naples museum. It cannot be merely 
the use of outline; for the pictorial styles of every race have 
made us sow our wild oats at one time or another. Perhaps 
it's the gold. Even without the figure the glittering surface would 
hold enchantment enough. In that case we should be enslaved by 
crassly material means. That is not the case; for the far less vigor- 
ous early Christian mosaics in Italy, which are not on a gold 
ground, are equally enchanting. The Baptistery and the Mausoleum 
at Ravenna are among our sanctuaries. It must surely be the legend 
which is intricately entangled in the walls of the place: a glittering 

Mosaic, Daphni. The Resurrection of Lazarus; 


chain o pictures like a singing choir. That is what takes our fancy. 
The universal rhythm, akin to the antique dithyramb, is what 
stirs our spirit and senses; but since we all can and may bear our 
part in it, since it brings us back to the home for which we long 
so ardently, it is immeasurably superior to that ancient mystery. 
It is not art that we see in these signs: nothing that can be person- 
ally examined and personally analyzed. To us they hardly seem 
like pictures; and all other pictures contrived by human hands, 
even the greatest, seem profane by comparison. They are the ges- 
tures of a familiar scene. They do not seize upon us or protect us 
or come down to us. They remain on high. 

That too is Greek. The genius of the race held its ground when 
the sun-illumined hall of the temple disappeared, along with its 
richly decorated pediment, and the exterior yielded its place to the 
interior. The sun stayed outside. The genius of the race must first 
be swallowed up in earth and darkness, in order to unfold itself 
anew. It rose again with a peal of bells from the Christian graves 
and formed the circle of the churches of the martyrs. The basilica 
received its congregation. 

My thoughts were full of it. The transition from the temple to 
the church is an event which is perfectly accessible to the thought- 
ful mind. The share of the Greeks in this development also requires 
no violent effort on the part of our brain. Other historical facts 
still present themselves, and we amuse or vex ourselves with them 
every day. The obviousness of this historical process leaves no room 
for reflection. Our previous notions were small, were almost in- 
significant; and once the eye has functioned, we must think again, 
and in a new region, moreover a highly concrete and positive 
region which we have never touched upon before. That impressed 
me. Alongside the great transition I saw many transitions, which 
affected me personally; with my grasp I suddenly saw everything 
&st had disquieted me as I contemplated ancient Athens, that had 
hampered my admiration. Alongside the columnar exterior of the 


temple and the spacious interior of the church, I saw a third which 
accomplished the transition from temple to church; and in the 
presence of this obvious fact all criticism and all enthusiasm re- 
garding both of them became insignificant, I was overwhelmed. 
At this moment I disliked having to look at the pretty hat of the 
lady from Athens and her Danish leather bag, which she carried 
in her hand and which was utterly unobjectionable. I had to make 
an effort to go on behaving like an interested tourist and exchange 
the usual words with the nice Greeks who had taken us there. I 
don't know why, but I should have much preferred to be in my 
own den in Berlin. The visual man recoils at the idea of thought. 

We went on from Daphni to the sea and lay on the sand opposite 
Salamis. We should really have liked to visit Eleusis, the site of the 
mysteries, but it seemed too far away. On our way back we had 
some beautiful views of the Acropolis. 

The mosaics betoken the Greek's ineradicable attachment to the 
flat surface, the most fundamental of all his qualities in the 
spatial arts and one from which neither his sculpture nor his 
architecture could ever break free. His instinct was always to adorn 
a surface before he shaped it; writing was his most natural activity. 
In the mosaics you can detect some of the graphic qualities of the 
vases; and the connection impresses you far more readily than the 
survival of the Greek spirit in Christian architecture, 

On the following day I visited the collection of Denys Loverdo 
in Athens; and was reminded of later developments in the same 
direction. Loverdo possesses a great number of ikons of the four- 
teenth, fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, all from Crete. The charm- 
ing color of these painters of the saints is obviously due to the 
appropriate influence of mosaic. Details seem to have been directly 
adopted. The figures are often of an excessively long shape steeped 
in asceticism and mysticism. The color scheme retains its positive 
consistency. Ecstasy gleams in the restrained tones of purple and 
emerald and sapphire. These pictures point not only to the past, 


when there were still Byzantine mosaics, but also forwards, in a 
fashion which is always unmistakable and often astonishing, to 
the great Greek master of the sixteenth century, who seems to our 
generation the solitary Messiah of the Greek spirit and who has 
acquired in our own day an enthusiastic public: Domenico Theo- 
tocopuli, called El Greco. Except for his pictures only a few trifling 
details of his life in Toledo have survived, and none regarding his 
early days in Crete. We only know that he was prouder of this 
origin than of the honor of having been a favorite pupil of Titian's; 
and to the last he signed his works in Greek. For centuries Crete, 
or Candia, had belonged to the Venetians; and like many other 
Greeks, young Domenico brought from the home of his fathers 
nothing but the blood he inherited. In Venice he found not merely 
a modern palette. One can imagine him spending idle hours in St. 
Mark's hidden in the dark chapel of St. Clemente, from which you 
get the best view of the mosaic in the transept. Or even more en- 
raptured before the solitary mosaic of the Madonna in the dome 
at Murano or the apse of Torcello. For he carried with him this 
exalted and touching Mother of God, along with all the saints and 
angels and the whole of Byzantine mysticism, on his long journey, 
and with their help in a foreign land he created afresh the whole 
enchantment of the Greek surface, nobler and more tender, more 
exalted and more ardent than ever Greece had been throughout 
her whole career. 

Crete is the site of the earliest Greek culture. Homer sings of the 
island's hundred cities. In the Dictaean cave Zeus came into the 
world and Minos his son and the Minotaur. At Knossos they found 
the first traces of the Egyptians of the Middle Kingdom; and from 
here Mycenae was fertilized. Then the development passed to the 
Greek mainland, and the island, which played no part in Greek 
history seemed dead. But in Crete we find the most important 
painters of Greek ikons; a whole school of them. And Crete is the 
fatherland of El Greco. The mosaics are enough to connect him 


with his native land. The ikons are a modest connecting link. They 
certainly meant more to El Greco than the stimulus of the painter, 
for because of the number o Titian's pupils this can hardly have 
counted for much. The ikons bound the Greek to his fatherland, 
the believer to his church, and impelled him to serve a congregation 
that threatened to dispense with his turbulent genius. The count- 
less, almost schematic, repetitions of many of his purely religious 
motifs especially the single figures of saintscan only be regarded 
as humble ikons. 

If you wish to be still more discreet, later painters like Kutusi and 
his pupil Kanduni, by whom there are some pictures in the Loverdo 
collection and in the gallery, permit you to detect possible signs 
of the influence of El Greco on the last remains of indigenous art. 
In many respects that yet remains to be studied. The school of El 
Greco, which it would be worth while to discuss, was only dis- 
covered in the age of Renoir and Cezanne. 

Accidentally, while you are staring at antique marbles, the flower 
of another Greece flutters your way: one of the countless flowers. 
On that account, negative experiences are here impossible. My dis- 
appointment in Athens is due to my dislike of an accidentally inade- 
quate interpretation. We have seen a bad production of a master- 
piece; and it's the fault of archeology. Our archeologists are like 
producers who, instead of gliding discreetly over their author's 
superficiality, try to extract melodramatic effects out of these weak- 
nesses because they are certain to bring down the house. 


OF all tlu temples Sunion has the loveliest site. The plateau is 
much smaller than that of the Acropolis and easier to crown; and 
the situation conceals the temple, at any rate on the land side. 
In a day or two, on our way to Constantinople, we shall discover 
how it looks from the sea. Not until you reach almost the top of 
the hill does the marble stand all white before you, as a last sur- 
prise. The surrounding landscape exaggerates, if possible, the usual 
play of contrast. The romance closes with a dramatic scene. You 
might almost believe that the Creator had suddenly torn himself 
violently away from the work that was dearest to him, and, in 
order not to be sentimental, had been satisfied with an inspired 
sketch for the finale. Nowhere is it easier to imagine a personal 
Creator. Natural as the ancient pantheon may seem in Greece, the 
ardor of the ecstatic Christian is equally intelligible. 

You stand on the plateau, which is built far out into the sea, 
like a sort of revolving stage. The finale is not without its dis- 
cordant note. In the midst of the floating, drifting, weathered form? 
that circle round us, the rows of columns give support to the eye. 
It is not the structural aspect alone that reassures us. The temple 
is a ruin, and as such is far more conclusive. One would never 
wish to see it on the acropolis as it once was, intact and peopled 
with the men of those days. Only as a ruin did it arrive at its 



fullest completion. It does not crown the hill alone. The building 
was only a small part of the hill when entire. Now the gleaming 
marble crowns the whole panorama. Its color is utterly unlike 
that of the Parthenon and plays quite a different role in the natural 
ensemble. It is not the form but the color that carries the rhythm 
which rejoices and reassures us. It begins far below us in the deep 
blue sea, which would turn almost black but for the movement, 
yet retains quite light tones in its gentle ripples. They do not seem 
to be blue, but green, which near the shore turns to the palest 

The sea was breathing peacefully and letting the sun do as it 
liked dissolve all the forms, distort all the colors except blue, and 
turn the earth into a shimmer, so that one might easily have mis- 
taken the sea for dry land and the land for a part of the silver 
sky. The height of the stage above the sea seemed more important 
than the distance of the sky, because we could feel the sky on our 
heads and were walking about in it. In this shimmer the columns 
took on the purest tone, a cross between bleached bones and snow- 
crystals. They had used a very white marble from the neighbor- 
hood which decomposes far more readily than that of the Parthenon 
but does not oxidize pink; on the contrary, the white becomes 
intenser with the action of the sea air. 

The flutes of the Doric columns are broader than usual, and the 
salt has eaten them away till they are wider still and the angles 
have lost all their sharpness. The friability of the stone, as at 
Segesta, favors the marriage of form with atmosphere, only it is 
a hundred times lovelier. 

The light accentuates the abstractness of the temple and releases 
it from the least association with utilitarian architecture. It no longer 
has any facade or any interior, and nobody would ever appreciate 
its spaciousness from a photograph. We ourselves acquired a 
spherical quality and moved about in front of the weathered steps 
of the temple with white teacups in our hands without bickering. 


As long as we were up here we lived through the eye alone; and 
although we chattered amiably to each other, everybody felt how 
vision isolated him and how his own real contact was with the 
glittering stone. Strauss was silent; he was apparently occupied with 
his finale. 


WE traveled here with the architect and his pretty wife. The 
weather was fine. As though it wanted to fool me for the last time, 
the Acropolis showed up to the best advantage just after we left the 
Piraeus. The pediment of the Parthenon was seen full face and 
S. Giorgio joined up with the hill of the Acropolis. The whole 
town carried the temple; and at last it became an organic head and 
a supernatural sign. Probably the mariners arranged this on pur- 
pose and subordinated all other views to this. 

The architect lay curled up on a bench on the upper deck; 
and his field-glasses were glued to his eyes till the last glimmer 
of marble had disappeared. To our delight the captain brought 
the ship close in to Cape Sunion, but at this distance the finale 
was silent. 

A new picture: the entrance to the Bosporus. One ought to do 
nothing but sail round outside and never set foot in the town. 
To a Delacroix, unrolling his grandiose perspective, a glance at 
any primitive reproduction would be sufficient to divine nature's 
intentions, and to surpass them. But the Turks have divined noth- 
ing. They have jumbled up big houses and little houses and min- 
arets and mosques, and dotted them about the landscape without a 
thought for any but the baldest utilitarian requirements. No house 



stands as it ought to stand; and the religious buildings are piled 
up in clusters. 

Constantinople is typical of vegetating Islam. Nowhere, either 
in Cairo or in Spain, is the helplessness of its formal sense so 
obvious. The Turks have stuck at the first stage of colonization, 
and are as little in place here as their brothers on the Nile. With- 
out the remains of other civilizations one would find it hard to 
believe that they were settled here at all. Though entrancingly 
situated, the Seraglio is nothing but the hastiest improvisation; and 
no one would dream of supposing that the Sultans who resided 
here were imperial potentates. This is how hurried governors build, 
who may be gone by tomorrow. In the seventeenth century and 
even earlier you find the astonishingly commonplace setting of a 
modern monarch. It does not repel you, however. There is some- 
thing almost touching about the poverty of the whole layout. 

In one of the many garden-like places they have just arranged 
a collection of Chinese porcelain; there is some good blue and white 
Kang-Hsi among it. In such surroundings the Asiatic decoration 
seemed extraordinarily natural; whereas every Turkish attempt to,, 
appropriate European architectural forms merely betrays the crav- 
ings of a kleptomaniac. 

The inhabitants of the town have had to put away their 
oriental costumes. There are no dogs and no fezzes any more, 
and the women go unveiled. The veil lies on their hair and can 
be pulled down at a moment's notice, and many Moslems carry 
their turbans in their pockets, to have them at hand against the fall 
of Kemal. Nobody ventures to do so before that happens. Im- 
penitent wearers of the fez are executed. Kemal's views on dress 
perhaps symbolize the promised renovation of the people; but the 
town has looked like Kattowitz ever since. It is very remarkable 
and significant, alike of this Mussolini and of the place as well. 
The picturesque Orient famed in song survived only in the native 
costume. Probably Stamboul was never anything but a fancy-dress 


Kattowitz, and Kemal has done an admirable thing in suppressing 
the masquerade. 

The ancient remains of the town dating from the pre-Christian 
period are of little or no importance. Even the museum contains 
hardly anything of artistic value that one would care to carry off. 
The early things are mostly ethnographic junk and the later Greek 
works are a libel on the Greek spirit; the worst of all is the 
Alexander sarcophagus admired by all archeologists -a monstrous 
piece of furniture. The connection of this symbol of bourgeois 
gorgeousness with the name of the proud conqueror rouses one's 
indignation. Thomas has written the thesis for his doctorate on the 
subject; he argues that Alexander never lay in this sarcophagus, 
though this masterpiece of Attic art is well worthy of Alexander. 

Here and there, hidden by Turkish whitewash, you can still see 
traces of the Byzantine golden age. The most remarkable, though 
least conspicuous, remains are underground: the gigantic water- 
cisterns, immeasurable halls, whose floor is under water and whose 
vaulted ceilings are held up by countless columns. "Halls" is much 
too mild a word. When I entered the first cistern I was seized 
with a sort of agoraphobia. It is called the cistern of the thousand 
and one columns. A forest of stone extends, one imagines, under 
the entire city. Fantastic pictures, dark and grand and utterly 
strange, play over the glistening mirror of water. Creatures of an- 
other world might here have disported themselves or performed 
their unholy rites. The actual fact that an exceedingly plausible and 
practical purpose, the collecting of water, is responsible for all this 
splendor, arouses the resistance of our mystery-loving imagination, 
which alone here under the earth gets an inkling of the legendary 
Constantinople it was expecting and was denied above ground. 
Columns and columns: a perfect paroxysm of them. It seems the 
Doric flutes of light have long since been shut out. The whole 
darkness of earth now rests on these firm supports; and the capitals 
bend under the burden. 


Down below, the forests of columns in the cisterns; up above, 
Agia Sophia. We didn't really want to see anything else; that was 
what we'd come for. I hoped it would restore my confidence in 
the antique which had begun to totter in Athens. I was expecting 
the dignity of the temple at Jerusalem in an accentuated form, the 
magnificence of S. Vitale at Ravenna still further enhanced, a more 
spiritualized St. Mark's. I hoped for a resounding chord of Byzan- 
tine Hellenism and Hellenic Christianity, expected a Christian 
temple. The Agia Sophia of our dreams may have existed once 
upon a time, were it only during those first thirty years till the 
earthquake brought down the original dome. Then the praises 
of the risen Redeemer rang out on the hymn of a risen humanity. 
A man of genius, Anthemius by name, in merit no less than Phidias 
and worthy to be kept in remembrance, shaped the vessel of the 
Christian dithyramb; and even after it had been restored by suc- 
cessors, who were of his own spirit, Justinian's boast that he had 
surpassed the temple of Solomon may well have been justified. 
Today the building has lost its note; and with the unfanciful eye 
of knowledge we contemplate an instrument which is played no 
more. The construction of the dome is interesting, remarked my 
friend the architect. 

Once again the power of mosaics is confirmed, but this time in 
the negative. They were once the eyes of the cathedral, and their 
gaze streamed down from on high upon the worshippers below, 
as long as the pictures up above remained. The Turks have smeared 
over their magnificence with yellow sauce and blinded the temple. 
The surviving anatomy is misleading, since it ascribes the effect to 
an oriental emperor's passion for splendor, not to the all-embracing 
hymn of the congregation. We miss El Greco's baldachin of the 
heavenly host. 

The first thing that Kemal must do in order to justify himself 
before the world, with which he wishes to range his people, is to 
unveil Agia Sophia. Not for the Christians, not for the Orthodox 


dogma, but for the sake of Sophia. Whatever one may feel about 
his politics, and the politics of all dictators, these gestures become 
them. His complaisance would in this instance amount to an act 
of creation. You can carry away the pictures from our cathedrals 
and knock off the heads of the stone saints, but the cathedral still 
remains. As long as a Gothic pillar is left standing, it carries the 
baldachin over the heads of the congregation. Here, however, in a 
perfectly preserved building which still serves the purposes of a cult, 
the given intention of the building is withheld from us. It is as 
though the stone refused to serve Islam and preferred annihilation 
to defilement. From the porch, whose nobility reminds you of the 
vestibule of St. Mark's, you step into a sumptuous hall of gigantic 
dimensions, whose intention remains doubtful. At first you suppose 
it is meant for superficial social usage: a reception-room which 
would do for games and dancing and in which one or two mem- 
bers of the common people slink about like burglars with their 
boots in their hands; or a concert-hall of fantastic luxury, in the 
morning, with the conductor's desk empty, and no music. 

The Turkish additions are comparatively harmless. The most 
disturbing are confined to the movable things: the ridiculous floor- 
covering, the multitudes of candelabra hanging low, the round 
shields made of green cardboard with gold inscriptions, high up 
above. They are all improvisations that could be swept away at 
once; and the mosaic is already gleaming here and there through 
the whitewash. If only Kemal had a spark of taste! It isn't even 
a question of taste: merely an involuntary movement of the in- 
stinct which makes us save something that threatens to fall off the 
table. There are enough mosques in StambouL To my mind, they 
ought to forbid all religious services, Christian as well, and declare 
Agia Sophia as European property. Here anybody might worship, 
if not God, then at least humanity. 

However, Kemal would be more likely to prescribe English 


policemen's helmets for his subjects; and in any case the League 
of Nations would probably raise objections. 

At present one can study materials and identify the different 
sorts of marble which cover the lower part of the walls. Verde 
antico columns carry the two-storied arcades. They didn't spare 
expense: three hundred and sixty hundredweight of gold without 
simple or compound interest. In S. Vitale at Ravenna the common- 
place baroque decoration disfigures a good part of the surface., but 
mosaics which adorn the apse assist our imaginary reconstruction, 
and the crass difference of style doesn't destroy the spirit of the place. 
In Agia Sophia the blinding of the mosaics causes a disturbance 
among the details which are actually untouched, and the whole 
color-scheme becomes senseless or commonplace. The white marble 
capitals don't suit the dark green columns, although the white has 
been toned down a great deal. With neck-breaking labor they have 
pierced the capitals in the arcade into a kind of finicking filigree- 
work and turned them into rigid lace; and it takes some time 
before you realize for certain that the material is marble, not stucco. 
When you know it's marble you get quite unhappy about the ex- 
travagance of it all. You scour the place for scandals, like poor 
people visiting a millionaire and getting indignant. The construc- 
tion of the dome is bold, but never quite bold enough. At the most 
sensitive point the logic breaks down. Why isn't the church entirely 
composed of semicircular niches and domes? Why this nave, 
that interrupts the flow of the central building and harks back to 
the basilica? Sped on by the domes at either end, the eye wants a 
concave bit in the middle; that, in fact, is just where concavity is 
needed, and the eye is offended by the motionless plane-surface, 
particularly by the excessive size of the semicircular portions at the 
top, with the double rows of ill-placed windows. In the same way, 
there are too many windows; and the exaggerated brightness, which 
is increased these days by the maltreatment of the domes, can never 
have been to the advantage of the original decoration. Only the 


frieze of forty windows in the main dome is justified both from 
a practical and from an ornamental point of view. The openings in 
the middle walls spoil the frieze and have a gap-toothed look. I 
suspect there has been some patching here. In any case, an old 
drawing shows a different arrangement of the windows; but even 
this document does not give the original disposition of the period 
of Justinian. I cannot imagine that Anthemius wanted any window- 
opening in these two lateral walls, especially if he planned these 
walls as they stand at present. On the contrary, the surfaces now 
pierced with windows were an ideal field for pictures. If the semi- 
circles carried boldly designed motifs in mosaic, it would be far 
easier to overlook the compromise between round building and 
basilica. The pictorial rhythm would be an adequate substitute for 
recession, and the dignity of the representation would justify the 
plane surfaces. Imagine Christ with the Apostles on one side, as 
for instance in the apse of SS, Cosma e Damiano in Rome; 
and as a pendant on the opposite side, perhaps a group with the 
Queen of Heaven, as in S. Apollinare Nuovo or in the cathedral at 
Parenzo. There is no lack of patterns for the pictures. Surfaces so 
eminently adaptable are hard to find. 

The effect of the arcades is immeasurably better in the round 
parts. Here alone at a favorable moment can the eye of the imagina- 
tion excuse the loss of the mosaics. Our friend, the architect, found 
places in the entrance wall where, by hiding behind a pillar, you 
were unable to see the lateral walls and were only aware of the 
niches with their domes. You got the illusion that it went further 
and that even the middle of the building was made out of similar 
sections of domes. Then the building ceased to look like a luxuri- 
ous hall. I won't go so far as to say it was a church again; but the 
space woke up, moved and sang, and this concert set the listener 
swinging. Now the whole cupola seemed to be floating, and this 
was only a part of the miracle. The concert of sounds made us stand 
on tiptoe. You could almost have believed that like the fretted 


marble of the capitals and arches it was a petrified network of some 
indefinite fabric. 

The exterior of the building, with the crutch-like supports and 
the confusing additions, is not worth considering. It cannot be 
said to have any form. In the presence of this jumble it is better 
to dismiss henceforth from one's thoughts all recollection of the 
beautiful temple-exteriors one has brought with one from Greece. 
The exterior, too, was built by Greeks; it was carried or mis- 
carried out by the same Anthemius. He knew what he was doing. 
We have as little right to suppose that he was ignorant of the 
temple-facades of his forbears as that he was trying to come to 
terms with the basilica. 

In the forecourt, which the visitor passes through on his way to 
the church, they have started an extremely primitive open-air cafe, 
where shrieking Turkish waiters request you to take a seat. It's all 
part and parcel of it. I thought of that place by the Jordan with 
the stuffed beasts in the trees and the derelict gramophone, where 
they say Christ was baptised. Mohammed respected Christ, and 
the Mohammedan religion has taken over this and that from our 
own; in any case it stands much nearer to us than many others, 
especially the cult of the ancient gods. It is odd how badly Islamic 
art compares with ours, how little community of religious ideas 
influences form, and how powerfully racial antipathies hamper the 
amalgamation of creative instincts. No mosque allows you to for- 
get that it is a travesty of a church; in the circumstances you would 
more readily endure still more brutal encroachments. The nature 
of a mosque is incompatible with our architecture; it sweetens 
and softens forms whose charm lies in their acerbity. The mis- 
chievous results of the contact are only noticeable where we are 
responsible for making the first advances towards a reconciliation 
and we are the receivers. In the Norman cathedral and royal 
palaces of Sicily which are still under Saracen influence the remains 
of oriental ways of life are enough to weaken appreciably the 

3 6o GREECE 

Nordic form. In the midst of our astonishment at the magnificence 
of the mosaics at Monreale we have a lurking sense of strangeness 
which completely destroys the simplicity of such pictures. The 
cathedral lacks abundance of space, and the arid forms of the build- 
ing make the enormous mosaic look like an interloper from outside 
who cannot enter into living relations with the congregation. The 
chapel in the royal palace at Palermo with its tall and over-elegant 
pointed arches, its mosaics and its frightful stalactite ceiling is 
merely another luxurious ornament, and in spirit belongs more 
to the East than to ourselves, 

A drop of oriental taste is still discernible in the black and white 
ornamentation of the cathedrals of Umbria and Tuscany; and we 
may doubt whether it was altogether favorable to the Italianization 
of Gothic. 

The so-called Little Agia Sophia, once dedicated to SS. Sergius 
and Bacchus, is a sketch for the big one and is superior inasmuch 
as the central system, as in S. Vitale at Ravenna, is consistently 
carried out. That is how Anthemius started. His creative will re- 
mains free as yet from personal ambition and is exercised about the 
harmony of complete symmetry. Here, too, we note his indifference 
to the exterior, which had merely to provide for material security. 
To this day it would not be a serious business to convert the 
interior back into a Byzantine jewel. The mosaics are even more 
thoroughly covered with cold Protestant white* Probably they lie 
undisturbed under the whitewash. The pleasant square in front 
of the church, from which we gazed at the Turkish coast, might 
be a corner of Ravenna. 

Agia Sophia has a heap of illegitimate offshoots in Constan- 
tinople. Outside they look like kitchen utensils thickly studded with 
dishcovers. Inside they are Turkish baths without water. In the 
pretty church of the Chora in the extreme north of the city, now 
called Kahrie-Djami, we found a narrow hall with mosaics intact. 
They are late: fourteenth century, I believe. The astounding 


animation of the drawing here brings mosaic close to painting. 
Their realism is also advanced, though the technique of the 
tesserae is always somewhat whimsical. They are intimate mosaics 
whose modest dimensions suit the hall. Dithyramb yields to a con- 
versational tone adapted to story-telling, but the tone preserves the 
rhythmic sequence. The picture always remains agreeably decora- 
tive; in that respect it differs favorably from wall-painting as then 
practiced in Italy, where they tried to turn the wall into a book. 
The usual comparison of these mosaics with Giotto leaves out of 
account the fundamental Greek quality of flatness. Giotto began to 
destroy the wall-surface: an act which was to lead to the flowering 
of a new art. The mosaics of Kahrie-Djami are still part and parcel 
of the wall. Their palette contains entrancing tints. We were fas- 
cinated by a peacock decked out in all its glory. 

Suddenly Babuschka started off again about Queen Hatshepsut, 
and wanted to know whether we could look forward to visiting 
Egypt again next winter. 



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